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With options in the backfield, Ajayi emerges as front runner

Well, the wait was worth it.

With the 9,146 fans that attended Saturday’s Blue and Orange Spring Game holding their collective breath every time he touched the ball, the oohs and aahs that ensued each of his 11 carries showered down regardless of the outcome.

According to his teammates, it was just a taste of what’s to come this fall.

“He’s really going to be a nice workhorse for us,” predicts starting quarterback Joe Southwick.

“Jay is just a great player.”

After sitting behind starter D.J. Harper last fall, runningback Jay Ajayi showed flashes that had every fan salivating over what type of numbers he could post with prime time carries.

On just 82 touches out of the backfield in 2012, Ajayi rushed for 548 yards - an average of 6.7 yards a carry.

On the second rushing attempt of his career, he broke a 71-yard run against New Mexico. On his fourth carry, he found the endzone.

After rushing for a team-high 69 yards on Saturday, Ajayi showed the sizzled that tested everyone’s patience to see him play last fall.

On the Broncos’ second quarter scoring drive, Ajayi rushed for 42 yards on the possession. To start, he busted a 9-yard run up the gut. In the middle, he broke outside for an 18-yard gain. Then, he capped off the drive by bullying his way into the endzone on a goaline carry.

Afterwards, head coach Chris Petersen explained how Ajayi’s performance capped a solid month of practice for the sophomore-to-be.

“Jay has had a nice spring and he’s kind of picked up where he left off last year, said Petersen.

As for the guys trying to stop him, they acknowledged it is never easy. With the 6-foot 215-pound back having earned the nickname “The Brahma Bull,” he is a load to stop for more than one reason.

“He’s hard to take down,” said linebacker Blake Renaud, who teammates have stated is as fearless and physical as anyone on the Boise State roster. “You can’t just take him down with an arm tackle. He runs hard and he’s quicker than you think.”

Saturday’s showing would easily suggest Ajayi will be the starter when the Broncos open up at the University of Washington this fall.

“If one guy emerges and he’s clearly the best guy, then he’s going to play the most,” explained Peterson about his group of runningbacks.

But with returner Jack Fields and JC-transfer Derrick Thomas also coming off solid springs, the lead role will not just be handed to Ajayi.

“Derrick Thomas has done a nice job, especially for being a new guy. There is a lot to figure out and he’s done that,” said Petersen before adding, “I think Jack Fields will be a factor.”

“It’s always about competition and if one guy earns more reps, they’re going to get them.”

With that in mind, so far Ajayi has earned his keep.

As for the waiting game, Bronco Nation, that now resumes for the next four months.

But it will end, once again, on Aug. 31 in Seattle, Washington.

- In appears that Ajayi has slimmed down since the end of last season. On the 2012 team roster, Ajayi was listed at 222-pounds. On the updated version that Boise State provided at the scrimmage, he is listed at 215-pounds.
- Following the Broncos’ practice last Tuesday, coach Petersen said that the runningbacks must use a “by committee” approach. When reflecting about the last two seasons, he said that for every Doug Martin they needed a D.J. Harper and that for every D.J. Harper they needed a Jay Ajayi. As for who fills Ajayi’s shoes, Thomas had a nice showing at the scrimmage with 27 yards on eight carries. (Click here for the story and stats from the Blue and Orange Spring Game.)

— Jay Tust (Follow on Twitter: @KTVBSportsGuy)