By Matt Sugam
PISCATAWAY – For Dontea Ayres, the challenge this spring has been two-fold. Not only is he one of five early enrollees coming to campus in January instead of July, he missed all of his senior season of high school with a knee injury.
So aside from transitioning from the high school to the college game, he also had to do so after not carrying the pigskin for a year.
“It’s been challenging, but I more think mentally, it’s a big mental game. Not so much physical, but I think it’s a big mental game,” Ayres told SNY.tv. “If I came in here thinking it’s going to be extremely tough, I don’t think I can do it, but I came in here with a lot of confidence.”
And it’s shown. Ayres has had a solid spring, showing he can be one of the backs to take carries behind workhorse Savon Huggins.
While he’s had a smooth transition thus far, he did need to get re-acclimated to the game of football.
“Shaking off the rust basically,” Ayres said. “Taking a year off, the little things that became natural like switching the ball over or having the ball high and tight, they’re not natural, so you have to train your body to make them natural again. So little things like that.”
All the while, trying to solidify his spot on the on the depth chart heading into training camp. Which is another one of the big changes from high school.
“It’s a reality check. You coming from your town and being that guy, and you come here and you got a player next to you that’s just as good as you if not better,” Ayres said. ”But at the same time, it’s a great thing because it motivates you more and pushes you to the next level and it makes you a better person all around, so it’s been challenging, but that’s what I wanted it to be. I didn’t want it to be easy. I don’t want it to be a cakewalk. I want it to be tough. I want it to be challenging.”
But it won’t be for Ayres compared to the rest of the freshman class coming in this summer. He’ll already have some collegiate experience having gone through spring practice.
“I think it’s huge,” Ayres said. “I think it’s very important because by the time August comes around, I feel like I’m going to be locked and loaded and ready to go. I know the playbook, I know the system, I know how practice is going to be run, so by the time August rolls around, I’m going to be really ready to compete.”