By Chadd Cripe
© 2012 Idaho Statesman
Boise State running backs coach Keith Bhonapha said his confidence in freshman tailbacks Jay Ajayi and Jack Fields is growing.
Ajayi carried nine times last week against Southern Miss and Fields carried four. Ajayi also got six carries a week earlier against New Mexico.
“There is some confidence being built by these young guys by their performance in practice, first of all, and secondly what they’ve done in games,” Bhonapha said. “You don’t have such a bias toward (senior starter D.J. Harper) — which, don’t get me wrong, him being the veteran that he is you want to get that guy in there because you know he’s going to be a warrior no matter what the situation is. But you feel comfortable taking him out in the second quarter, saying we might need this guy later in the game. And that’s the confidence we need in our room.”
At New Mexico, Ajayi took over for two series in the second quarter. He rushed for 118 yards and a touchdown, including a 71-yard run.
At Southern Miss, Ajayi and Fields got most of the work for the first two series of the second quarter.
Bhonapha said he doesn’t have a set rotation, but it’s clear he’s trying to use the young guys in the second quarter.
“I have ideas of plays that I think certain guys might be better on,” he said. “Once a guy gets going, if he has a feel and he’s doing the right things, I’m going to keep him in there.”
For the season, Harper has 427 yards and five TDs on 94 carries (4.5 yards per carry). Ajayi has 165 yards and a TD on 16 carries (10.1) and Fields has 63 yards on 18 carries (3.5).
The two freshmen are smart players who understand their assignments, Bhonapha said, but still don’t see the pass rush and holes like the more experienced Harper.
“I’m really happy with the way that Jay and Jack have come along,” Bhonapha said. “Jay is a big, inside runner — he can go outside as well. I think he brings something different just with his elusiveness and his patience and the way he runs the ball. Jack, being a young guy, he’s more of a downhill runner. We’re definitely working to try to keep him going and progressing. With him, it’s just exciting to see a young guy with as much talent and effort and want-to as Jack has.”
One thing Bhonapha has emphasized with the running backs is the importance of short runs. He said they can get frustrated by the lack of explosive plays.
“Everybody wants that big run and breaking for 40 yards,” he said. “It’s really keeping these guys grounded and understanding that just because you only got 4 yards — guess what, we’ll take second-and-6 all day. What I don’t want is a 1-yard run and now we’re looking at second-and-9.”
Center Matt Paradis on the freshman running backs: “They’re good running backs. It’s good to get D.J. a break here and there. He’s not Superman.”
Some thoughts on Fresno State’s 3-4 defense:
— Bhonapha: “They create a lot of havoc on the defensive side for the offense. Those guys play with enthusiasm and really the energy that you like to see from a defense. … Their scheme is what sets them apart and it’s really going to be a challenge for us.”
— Paradis: “They’re very aggressive and they’re confusing people. … They don’t quit, and they confuse people. … They don’t show their blitzes as much as a lot of teams.”
— Tight end Chandler Koch: “It’s going to be a battle (at the line of scrimmage). We have to take what we can get … keep hammering away at them and don’t get discouraged from one play.”
Fresno State first-year coach Tim DeRuyter, on what the Boise State game means to Bulldogs fans (via The Fresno Bee):
"I think this game has been a barometer for our program the last few years and it’s part of the reason why some people were disenchanted. We’re making some strides. But I think in a lot of people’s minds in the city of Fresno and in the Valley, they want to see how we stack up this year, and that’s going to be our challenge to our guys: 'Who are we? We think we have a chance to be pretty good. Let’s find out on Saturday.' "
If you missed it earlier, here is my post on the NCAA appeal.