Boise State football’s Ajayi, Williams-Rhodes, Lawrence hope lessons from 2012 pay off in 2013


Jay Ajayi meets the media

By Chadd Cripe
ccripe@idahostatesman.com
© 2013 Idaho Statesman

There was an all-star cast for Boise State player interviews Wednesday — junior defensive end Demarcus Lawrence, sophomore wide receiver Shane Williams-Rhodes and sophomore tailback Jay Ajayi. You can watch Ajayi’s full interview above and those of Lawrence and Williams-Rhodes below. I also posted a couple more 1-on-1 practice videos — Williams-Rhodes vs. cornerback Donte Deayon and Lawrence vs. Charles Leno Jr.

Highlights from the veterans practice this morning:

— The defensive line had another strong showing Wednesday with Lawrence and senior defensive tackle Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe continuing to pressure the quarterback.

— The first-team and second-team offenses went three-and-out during a game-like situation. On the third drive, walk-on tailback Charles Bertoli busted a 65-yard touchdown run. He went untouched down the right sideline.

— Junior wide receiver Matt Miller also had an explosive play later in practice, catching a pretty fade from Joe Southwick for about 30 yards.

Highlights from the newcomers practice this afternoon:

— True freshman tight end Jake Roh looked good running routes. Redshirt freshman cornerback Chaz Anderson grabbed an interception and true freshman cornerback Jonathan Moxey made a couple nice plays, although Petersen flagged him for holding on one of them. And walk-on wide receiver Terrell Johnson, a junior college transfer from Saddleback College (and Montgomery, Ala.), continued to impress.

Highlights from interviews:

Ajayi

— He said he feels healthier this year, two years removed from a torn anterior cruciate ligament. He is playing at 218 pounds, down 10 from last season. “I kind of leaned out so it will be better for me and my knee. I just feel better at this weight. … I definitely think losing weight will add an extra gear in my game and will be better for my knee.”

— On his role as a veteran in the young tailback group: “It’s crazy because I’m ‘the veteran’ but I’m still not even the oldest. It’s kind of surreal. Everybody’s learning off each other and we’re just all trying to get better every day.”

— On what he learned from predecessors Doug Martin and D.J. Harper: “Just their work ethic. Doug and D.J.’s work ethic was just amazing. And just the way they run the football. They run hard, they run tough and they brought their own certain style to running back. So I just try to take pieces of each of their games and try to put it in mine.”

— On a season of experience: “Last year, it was kind of fast because it was my first year playing (college) football. Now it’s starting to slow down a little bit and my vision’s getting a lot better. That has helped me as a running back because one of the key characteristics of a running back is good vision and that’s helped my vision a lot.”

— On the tailbacks: “We’re deep. We’re all very talented. We all bring a different style of play to the running back position. I’m excited for all of us to get out there and show what we can do.”

Williams-Rhodes

— On his expanded role on offense: “I used last year to learn and get into the offense. I think it was a good idea for me to do it how I did it last year. Now everything’s much easier.”

— On playing receiver vs. tailback: “I knew I could play both positions. … Ironically, (wide receiver) has always been my favorite position, even when I played running back. I used to always like to catch the ball.”

— On being a punt returner: “You’ve gotta focus. You can’t take your eye off the ball. … Coach Pete actually calls that position the best decision-maker. When you’re back there, you’ve got to be like the quarterback on the field — you’ve got to make the best decision for the team, not for yourself.”

— On his kickoff return that set up the game-winning field goal last year against Washington: “Probably one of the greatest moments since I’ve been playing football, even though I didn’t even score — just because I contrinuted to the team win.”

Lawrence

— On the difference between last year and this year: “This year is more a focused period, because last year coming in I had to learn a lot, learn my tools. And now this year I know it all so I have to focus on getting better every day.”

— On leadership: “I want to be a better leader because I feel like the team will follow me. If I come in and show that I want to work, they’re going to want to work, so I have to step up and come to the plate.”

— On this year’s defense: “We lost some great guys last year but this year we’re coming back with more focus. There’s a lot of guys who want to stand up and play this year and cause havoc any chance we get.”

Here is a photo gallery from practice.

•••

It has become a tradition on the Boise State defense.

Linebackers emerge as freshmen or sophomores. They bide their time as part-time defenders and full-time special-teamers.

And eventually, they get their chance to shine.

The latest such story: junior middle linebacker Blake Renaud, a big hitter who likely will start this season. Renaud, who played as a true freshman in 2011, contributed 46 tackles last season. He has been a frequent owner of the Hammer, which goes to the player with the biggest hit on special teams.

“The nice thing about Blake, he’s one of those guys who has played a lot of ball for us,” coach Chris Petersen said. “He’s one of those guys who’s not a headline name, but he’s been very good on our special teams. He has played in there with those backers and made a lot of plays for us. He understands things and is physical. So now it is his time to take that next step and a lot of people should be knowing his name.”

Renaud relishes the new role, which thrusts him into a leadership position.

“I enjoy being the guy in the front,” he said. “I’m just trying to be the best linebacker I can. … I’m not much of a talker. I like to try to show it on the field. I’m happy about being one of the top guys.”

•••

Here is the audio from Petersen’s Tuesday press conference. The video is below.

•••

True freshman linebacker Joe Martarano, the much-hyped Fruitland High star who turned down pro baseball to play college football, will be one of the most scrutinized members of the 2013 recruiting class.

“He just got out of high school, so we need to be patient, let this thing happen like it’s supposed to,” Petersen said. “He doesn’t need to be our leading tackler this year. It will happen how it’s supposed to.”

Petersen said he left the door open for Martarano to play baseball in the summer if that’s what he wants to do.

“We said all along we wanted to do what’s best for him,” Petersen said. “If baseball could fit in there and he could somehow make that work, hey, we’ll look at that down the road. … Joey’s family was so great about the whole thing. It was such a good relationship. What’s best for him and what he wants to do, that’s how he’s going to have success. He’s all football right now and we’ll get him dialed in and see what the future holds.”

Martarano, like all first-year freshmen, is unavailable for interviews.

•••

The Mountain West has hired Mike Waller as senior associate commissioner/chief financial officer. Waller had worked in the Boise State athletic department since 1989, including 12 years as chief financial officer. He most recently worked on event operations.

•••

Here are today’s newspaper stories: Boise State’s grass plan and camp notes.

•••


Williams-Rhodes vs. Deayon


Lawrence vs. Charles Leno Jr.


Williams-Rhodes meets the media


Lawrence meets the media


Boise State coach Chris Petersen meets with the media on Aug. 6, 2013.


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Chadd Cripe has spent the past 12 years as the Boise State football beat writer. You can follow him on Twitter @IDS_BroncoBeat.

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