ISU football gets hands-on coach: Physical new coach looks forward to player development

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Running backs coach Louis Ayeni leads drills during spring practice on March 10 at Bergstom Football Complex. 

Alex Gookin

On the first day of spring practice, ISU running back coach Louis Ayeni knew he had a lot to learn as a new coach on Iowa State’s staff.

What the four returning running backs did not know was that Ayeni would show them that they had a lot to learn, too. Equipped with a foam blocking bag, Ayeni whacked players as they ran through a running drill.

“The first time they went through, they were a little surprised,” Ayeni said. “Now it’s kind of funny. When they’re running through, they have their pads down and they try to run me over. They learn.”

The hands-on coaching approach is just Ayeni’s way of teaching. The 2003 Northwestern graduate is only eight years removed from playing in the NFL and despite a recent birthday, he says he’s young enough to run alongside players and coach as an example.

Ayeni says he likes what he’s seen out of the group, led by ¬†Aaron Wimberly, who will be a senior in the fall.

“I see some fast guys,” Ayeni said. “It’s been exciting. With the new staff coming in, these guys have taken the coaching well and they want to get better every single day.”

Ayeni has four running backs at his disposal this spring with last season’s leading rusher Wimberly and third-leading rusher DeVondrick Nealy. Rob Standard and redshirt freshman Tyler Brown also return from last year’s squad.

Head coach Paul Rhoads hopes to see a healthier spring out of the group, as Wimberly struggled with injuries much of last spring and throughout the season.

“I’d love to get 15 days of practice out of him,” Rhoads said of Wimberly. “Aaron is tough, he doesn’t have to show any toughness. I’d like to see him take control of the offense and display all the skills he has.”

Ayeni hopes to see player development through the spring, claiming he can bench more than any of the running backs. He said the friendly competition between coach and players makes it fun.

But after three practices, Ayeni said there is still some learning to do. After four years of coaching at the University Toledo, it’s back to teaching players how he runs practice.

“It’s been kind of fun doing that because for four years your guys know how to practice with you, so they are seeing a different side of me a little bit,” Ayeni said. “We practice fast, we practice physical and we play hard through the whistle, so it’s kind of fun.”