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Georgia Tech Football: Five Newbies to Watch for - Ayinde Eley

NCAA Football: Indiana at Maryland
Maryland Transfer
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

I didn’t know much about Ayinde “Ace” Eley prior to doing research on this article. Ayinde is a grad transfer coming in from Maryland. Like many grad transfers Ayinde was a name I was interested in because of the stats he can put up and the support he can provide to his new Georgia Tech team. Afterall, Georgia Tech just lost their top linebacker in David Curry, and while we definitely have other talented players, it sure is a plus to have an experienced linebacker at the position to help fill in. That was what I viewed Ayinde as prior to my research, a good player to fill a gap we needed. After looking into his background though I found he’s been on a longer journey than I realized.

NCAA Football: Maryland at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Before going into his full background, the first thing I have to say is don’t be deceived by his 2020 stats, Ayinde put up 19 tackles over 3 games. The overall stats may not look great (only playing 3 games and only having 19 tackles on the season), but let’s keep in mind COVID made a lot of last season weird. Maryland only played 5 games and many players were shifted in and out due to the COVID protocols. We should view it as more impressive that despite only playing 3 games Ayinde still got 19 tackles. To get a better reflection of Eley let’s look at his 2019 stats. In 2019 Ayinde appeared in 11 games, with 9 starts, and accumulated 79 tackles along with 2 fumble recoveries and an interception. 79 tackles was good for the second most tackles on the team, despite missing the final game of the season.

Ayinde’s Journey

Clearly Ayinde has the stats to be a good linebacker, but he also has a burning passion for the sport that is difficult to replicate. Growing up under his father, Donald Hill-Eley former player and the current coach at Alabama State University, Ayinde learned early on to love football and became a football fanatic. He was rated as the No. 22 OLB in the country via Scout and was on his way to a bright future in college receiving offers from Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan State, West Virginia, Virginia Tech, and Maryland.

In his senior year of high school Ayinde suffered from a seizure related to autoimmune encephalitis. The autoimmune encephalitis caused his brain to swell inhibiting his movement. All of a sudden Ayinde’s football career wasn’t the only thing in question. When he began rehab he could not walk and struggled to move the left side of his body.

This didn’t stop Ayinde or the rest of his family. His father and mother gave their all to assist in his recovery and Ayinde persevered through the situation. Despite missing his senior year in high school and redshirting his first year at Maryland, Ayinde Eley continued to fight and put his all into getting back on the field. It took years, but the Eleys’ drive was rewarded in 2018 when he finally got play in his first college game against Texas. The next week Ayinde got the first interception of his college career against Bowling Green. From there he continued to get better which let to the stats we listed earlier in 2019.

In three years, Ayinde went from barely being able to move to putting up the 2nd most tackles on the Maryland team. I can’t imagine most of us would have the resolve to get back on the field after that experience; I know I personally would’ve have given up on a playing career and just tried to find a way to live a normal life. I want to say Ayinde has mad drive, but I don’t think that fully encompasses all he’s been through. Ayinde is on another level. You cannot underestimate this man.

Ayinde’s Play

Okay, okay, enough emotional gushing. Obviously Ayinde has been through a lot, but how does he play? Looking at Ace’s highlights you can see he has a great nose for the ball and clearly has a good understanding of opposing offenses (meaning he probably watches a lot of game tape). The thing that really stood out to me though was Ayinde’s block shedding ability.

Ayinde has a knack for getting around, or just tearing through, opposing offensive linemen. You can often see plays where Ayinde makes a tackle starting with an opposing blocker in his face. Despite this Ayinde finds ways to get past the blockers and into the back field to cause pressure. This would be a big help in increasing Tech’s ability to stop the run and get pressure on opposing QBs (LETS GET THAT HAVOC PERCENTAGE UP GUYS).

Conclusion

NCAA Football: Maryland at Penn State Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Man, I just really like this guy. I wasn’t expecting to be this excited about Ayinde when I chose to write this article. With what this guy has been through and his past performance on the field, he might be my favorite Georgia Tech player now (Taking the place of Pressley Harvin III from last year). I have high expectations for Ayinde’s first year at Georgia Tech, but I fully expect him to deliver. Ayinde’s going to be wearing the # 10 jersey for Tech, be sure to keep an eye for him to be making some big plays this year.