Out of yesterday's football awards banquet came the news that that Jourdan Brooks is leaving the football program (per Sargeant, he's off to Morgan State). That's disappointing, but not altogether too much of a surprise, even though Tom Luicci said that Jourdan claimed he was staying several weeks back. Brooks has strong physical gifts, but is maddeningly hesitant as a runner. That quality has been undoubtedly exacerbated by a lack of playing time, and poor offensive line play in 2009. At the FCS level, Brooks has a fair chance to do well and even make it to the pros. That happened with Justise Hairston after he lost his job to Ray Rice.
No one can say whether or not Brooks is capable of being a good starting back, but he didn't really get a fair shake because of the line play and Coach Schiano's stubborn unwillingness to platoon backs. I've heard and read his explanations about that time and time again, and they still don't really past muster. Plenty of teams on all levels of football are able to manage a successful back platoon. Runners generally do need consistent reps to play at a productive level. Every preseason report said the competition between Brooks and Martinek was neck and neck, so they should have received a roughly equal split of carries.
Removing Brooks from the depth chart does clear up the 2010 situation up somewhat. Now Joe Martinek is an unquestioned starter, and ultimately his productive is wholly dependent on the play of the offensive line. Martinek was perhaps overrated after dazzling in limited minutes in 2008, but he doesn't nearly deserve some of the criticism he received last year when he was getting tackled in the backfield on every play. That was on the line, and having a passing game would help.
He'll be pushed by De'Antwan Williams if the s0-called "Rocket" can improve the secondary aspects of his game. As much as I've tried to thread the needle and give a clear-eyed assessment of Martinek, it's impossible to deny that Williams is the most talented back on the roster, and should be pushing Joe for playing time. The right combination would be something around 15 touches (run and pass) a game for Martinek, 10 for Williams, and 5 or so for the Wildcat, Option, and other assorted gadgetry. Maybe one of the freshmen for short yardage. Kordell Young is a wild card too with his multiple cumulative knee injuries.
It now it becomes all that much more important to sign two tailbacks in the 2010 recruiting class. Casey Turner is currently a verbal commitment, and Rutgers is still in the running for Mustafa Greene and Jawan Jamison. And while I don't think it played any role here at all, this does make the depth chart that much more appealing to a very deep 2011 class of backs....
As somewhat of a footnote, backup offensive lineman Wayne Thomas is also transferring to Delaware State. He was unlikely to ever contribute on the roster. That's noteworthy only in the sense to illustrate the perils of developing top linemen prospects. Thomas had a great deal of potential as a DT recruit, but never was able to realize it. Rutgers fans should count their lucky stars that Scott Vallone looked as good last year as he did, and it would be a mistake to expect as much immediately from Antwan Lowery or Isaac Holmes.