As great a running back as Boise State’s Jay Ajayi is, we saw that Bryan Harsin & his staff may have relied on him too much Thursday night against Ole Miss. Ajayi carried the ball 20 times for 94 yards as well as caught 12 passes for 93 yards against the Rebels.
Not only was it an impressive performance, but he took some big shots from the Ole Miss defense. Although Ajayi is the box office running back at Boise State, the running back position for the Broncos is not lacking…at all.
With backup running backs Devan Demas, Jack Fields, and Charles Bertoli all waiting for their names to be called, only Demas heard his name. Despite the praise that Demas has received from Harsin and the rest of the Boise State coaching staff all through Spring and Fall camp, he only saw a brief moment of action carrying the ball for three yards on one rush.
Although the backup running back stats don’t give the ‘wow’ factor, the depth of the backfield for the Broncos is apparent from watching the backups perform over the last two seasons.
Devan Demas stats from 2013 season:
Jack Fields career stats:
Charles Bertoli stats from 2013 season:
To lighten the load for Ajayi is not a negative, especially against a team like Ole Miss who made a real effort to take as many big hits as they could on the 6-foot 215 pound junior. ESPN’s commentators mentioned how the coaching staff wanted to keep him fresh for the game against Ole Miss, in which it showed. For Ajayi to be fresh all season, the work-load has got to be spread throughout all the running backs.
There was a sliver of fatigue when Boise State was knocking on the door in the red zone when offensive coordinator Mike Sanford called three plays for Ajayi to punch it in. By fourth down, you could tell he was winded and needed rest.
The weight of responsibility for Ajayi may have been unfair to him, but he relishes in that environment. With shear determination and a knack to power through defenders, Ajayi had a great game and a number of big plays.
Boise State may need to show different looks with the number of backs they have at their disposal. All of these players bring different strengths and different looks. This will help Boise State become more dangerous in their run game and set up their pass game.