Oct 27, 2012; Laramie, WY, USA; Boise State Broncos running back Jay Ajayi (27) breaks away from Wyoming Cowboys linebacker Korey Jones (5) during the second quarter at War Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports

Huskies Versus Broncos: Jay Ajayi's Breakout Potential

Note: The season opener against Boise State is little more than a month away, and with that remaining time I plan on writing up some posts focusing on the Broncos. Closer to the actual game I will do more straight forward previews, say of the offense, defense, and special teams, and of course predict the final score. But for now I will look at individual players or other more specific subjects that can serve to inform and excite Husky fans for that wonderful first game in the new Husky Stadium. If I do my job correctly, you should know as much about Boise State as any non-coach or player would need to.

I’ll start out by looking at redshirt sophomore running back Jay Ajayi, who I identified in my Vegas Bowl preview as a possible x-factor for the Broncos. How did he do in that game? Well, four carries for seven yards. But never mind about that.  In his other 12 games he did much better, I promise. He amassed 548 yards in only 82 attempts while backing up starter D.J. Harper (now graduated), good for a fairly astounding 6.7 yards per attempt average to go along with four touchdowns.

Dec 22, 2012; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Boise State Broncos running back Devan Demas (hat) and running back Jay Ajayi (27) celebrate their 28-26 win over the Washington Huskies in the Maaco Bowl at Sam Boyd Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Josh Holmberg-USA TODAY Sports

Harper toted the ball 228 times compared to Ajayi’s 82, and given that no other player came close to competing with Ajayi for backup last year, it’s reasonable to assume that he will hold on tight to that football at least 200 times over the course of the 2013 season, assuming he stays healthy. Let’s do some quick math. 6.7 yards per carry times 228 carries equals 1527 yards. 228 attempts divided by 82 attempts equals 2.78. 2.78 times four touchdowns equals 11 (and some change) touchdowns. Oh my god, oh my god, Ajayi is going to put up a season stat line of 1527 yards and 11 touchdowns. I just discovered a sure-fire star. I love statistics.

Wait, damn. While crunching numbers I forgot about two statistic-spoiling words: sample size. Of course it’s ridiculous to just assume that given the role of feature back, Ajayi will maintain his 6.7 yard average. Even if he proves to be a fantastic starting back, it’s unreasonable to expect more than 5.5 yards per carry, and anywhere in the neighborhood of five is considered very good. But that doesn’t mean anyone should sleep on Ajayi.

Last year he showed that he was not only consistently productive, but explosive as well. He only received double-digit carries once, against Fresno State, and he racked up 91 yards. In a very close 31-29 win over New Mexico early in the year, his stat line read six carries, 118 yards and one touchdown. The score came on a 71-yard breakaway run. His four touchdowns, spread over four different games, resulted from runs of 71, 13, 21, and 13 yards.

Regardless of how well Washington limited Ajayi’s impact in his four carries, you can bet that Steve Sarkisian and his staff will be giving a great deal of attention to controlling him over 15-to-25 carries come August 31. At 6′ and 215 pounds, Ajayi is physically ready for that role, and given his success in limited opportunities last year, he will likely be itching to establish himself early on and prove that he deserves the No. 1 spot on the depth chart.

Considering all of this, Ajayi is the Boise State player that I’m most excited to see play in the opener, and beyond the reliable, highly-efficient game of senior quarterback Joe Southwick, he is the offensive player that worries me the most.

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