Boise State football coach Bryan Harsin and running backs coach Kent Riddle haven’t talked to junior tailback Jay Ajayi about his future with the program, they said this week.
Even if they knew Ajayi was leaving for the NFL after this season, he would not be included in Saturday’s Senior Day ceremony before the regular-season finale against Utah State (8:21 p.m., ESPN2).
“I wouldn’t put a junior out there,” Harsin said.
“ I have not talked to him about his future. He has not come to me. It hasn’t even been brought up amongst the team. He’s playing well. And to me, when the season is all said and done, that’s definitely a conversation we need to sit down and have. And if it’s the right thing — the best thing — for Jay to move on, then that’s the best thing to do. We’ll put the facts down. There’s obviously an emotional factor, too, because you’ve seen guys that could go on and play that don’t and guys that do. It’s one of those decisions he’s going to have to make based on where he feels he’s at.”
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Ajayi has the chance to get guidance from the NFL’s draft advisory board, but the group is using a different grading scale this year. Players will be given a first-round grade, a second-round grade or no grade. The implication is that the ungraded players should stay in school.
An NFL scout, speaking on condition of anonymity, projected Ajayi would be drafted in the second through fourth rounds. So it’s possible he won’t get a grade.
The NFL changed its system after 45 of 107 underclassmen who declared last year went undrafted. The advisory board hit on more than 70 percent of its first-round grades and more than 85 percent of its second-round grades but fared much worse on players projected to go later in the draft. More than half of the players projected for the third round or later weren’t drafted.
Agents likely still will provide estimated grades to prospects.
“The NFL has done the right thing,” Harsin said. “If you’re a first- or second-round guy, that’s different than being a third- or fourth-round guy. That’s the worst possible thing you can do to a young man is put him out there and nothing happens.”
Added Riddle: “We’ll worry about that after the season. He’s got to do what’s the right thing to do and we’ll give him the advice that he needs, that’s he asks for.”
Ajayi is in the middle of a remarkable season. He ranks third in the nation in yards from scrimmage with a school-record 1,925. He’s fourth in scoring with 23 touchdowns.
His receiving (44 catches, 535 yards and four TDs) and blocking prowess will make him more valuable to the NFL than some running backs with better rushing numbers. He’s 6-foot, 216 pounds.
“He’s got everything you want in a football player and a running back as well — size and speed and hands,” the scout said. “He’s very good in the pass game. I think that helps his value. A lot of these guys are great runners but have no idea how to pass protect. He can do both, which is a rarity.”
The negatives for Ajayi, the scout said, are his upright running style that creates some wicked collisions, his severe knee injury from 2011, good depth at running back in this draft class and the NFL-wide devaluing of running backs in the draft.
No running backs have been selected in the first round in the past two drafts. Last year, the first running back selected went at No. 54.
Ajayi missed the finalist cut this week for the Doak Walker Award (top running back). Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon, Indiana’s Tevin Coleman and Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah have combined for 477 receiving yards — fewer than Ajayi by himself.
“I’m a little disappointed that he wasn’t recognized as one of the finalists for the Doak Walker Award because in my opinion there’s no more complete back out there,” Riddle said. “A lot of times all people look at when they vote are the stats and the highlights. But they don’t see the pass protection and the effect he’s had on our pass game catching the ball. He makes a lot of tough yards, too.
“The best thing he can do is just get out there and play. He’s done that and competed and I think he’s done a good job of shutting out the outside noise and I’m fired up to see him as long as we’ve got him.”
Harsin also appreciates that Ajayi hasn’t let the speculation about his future define his season.
“The best thing that he’s done is he’s kept with the theme each and every week,” Harsin said. “That’s all that really matters. His mission this week is to prepare himself to go out and play his very best against Utah State. That’s it. That’s all he can control. He’s not getting drafted tomorrow. What I’ve seen from Jay is the maturity of understanding where he’s at on a weekly basis. When it’s all done, there will be plenty of opportunities to sit down and talk about it.
“ There’s definitely going to be talk about him going on to the NFL. He’s got the potential to do that. Whether that happens or that’s what he wants to do or it all ends up that way, we don’t know yet.”
Ajayi was not made available to the media this week.
In August, he said he didn’t consider leaving after his sophomore season and would put his focus on excelling during his time as a Bronco.
“I haven’t really tried to stress myself too much about that,” he said then. “To be able to do that would be a major step for me and I’m not really too worried about it right now. My main focus is just having a great fall camp, just preparing myself to have a great season this year. When it gets to that point, I’ll just sit down with my parents, sit down with my coaches and then we’ll take it from there.”
His dad, Ibi, said in August that it’s important for his son to graduate. Ajayi is on track to get his degree in May.
“What we’ve told him is to focus on the task at hand,” Ibi said. “Do his best to contribute to the success his team will have this season. Whatever the outcome of that is for him personally, accept it at the time. All options are open. We want to see him graduate. At the same time, we do understand that (NFL) possibility as well.”
The fund to benefit Boise State safety Jeremy Ioane, who will need a kidney transplant after the season, received more than $3,000 in donations in the first 13 hours after we posted our story on his disease and desire to finish his Broncos career.
Senior Day is really Senior Week. One of the traditions is pictured below:
Utah State at Boise State
When: 8:21 p.m. Saturday
Where: Albertsons Stadium (36,387, FieldTurf)
TV: ESPN2 (Mike Couzens, David Diaz-Infante, Shelley Smith). Channel 209 on DirecTV, 144 on Dish, 25 and 492 (HD) on Cable One.
Radio: KBOI (670AM), KKGL (96.9 FM); Bob Behler, Pete Cavender
Records: Boise State is 9-2 overall, 6-1 Mountain West; Utah State is 9-3, 6-1
Series: Boise State leads 14-4 (Boise State won 34-23 last year in Logan)
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