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Rutgers Season Review: Running Backs

Not as fierce as predicted

NCAA Football: Nebraska at Rutgers Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

At the beginning of the season, I wrote a piece predicting that the running backs for Rutgers would have outstanding years. Unfortunately, I was wrong. Robert Martin had an off year and sustained an injury that kept him out of a handful of games. Justin Goodwin had trouble holding onto the ball. Josh Hicks was out a few games because he had to go and play defense due to depth and injury issues.

Needless to say, it was a highly disappointing year for Rutgers just about everywhere, especially on offense; they ranked dead last in total offense. Now, on top of all that, our young stud of an Offensive Coordinator, Drew Mehringer, has been recruited to work under his mentor Tom Herman over at The University of Texas.

Lets break the statistics down, back by back.

Robert Martin

The junior back missed the first game of the season against Washington due to an injury, but did return the next week against Howard. Martin’s first three games of the season (Howard, New Mexico, Iowa) gave Rutgers fans hope that Martin would turn out to be a feature back in this program.

In those three games Martin carried the ball 58 times for a total of 358 yards which comes out to be 6.17 yards per carry. Martin also added a rushing touchdown, which turned out to be an anomaly for Rutgers this season. Martin’s next and last touchdown came in the last game against Maryland.

For the rest of the season, Martin only had two games where he averaged more than five yards per carry which was against Maryland and Illinois. Martin missed games against Washington, Indiana, and Minnesota. Martin played in limited snaps against both Michigan State and Penn State totaling 10 carries over the two games.

Lastly, Martin lost his starting role on the team to senior Justin Goodwin the last week against Maryland. Coach Ash said the starter’s role is something you earn and Robert had been injured and hadn’t earned the right to start anymore at the point.

Needless to say, it was quite the off year for Robert Martin. He started off exactly how everyone hope he would. He started to fall off as the season went on, then he got injured, and never fully recovered it seemed.

Martin still has one year left to improve on his final stat line of 121 attempts, 625 yards, and a mere two touchdowns. Martin has put up better numbers than that and he would have more than likely looked much better if he hadn’t been injured most of the season.

Despite the seemingly low numbers, Martin still averaged 5.17 yards per carry on the season. That average led the team by a mile, except for Janarion Grant, of course. One could only imagine how much more yards per carry Martin could have average if he was utilized more but couldn’t be as much due to his injury.

Luckily, he now has the off season to get fully healthy and put up the big numbers we all expected this year, next year. Let us all hope Martin is the workhorse we all know he could be next season under a new offensive coordinator.

Justin Goodwin

The senior back finally had his chance this season. After a 2015 season where he struggled to see the ball even once at times during games, Goodwin became a back that fans grew accustomed to seeing on the field in all situations this season.

Goodwin finished his senior season with 517 yards on 118 attempts and one touchdown which equals out to be a 4.38 average per carry.

Goodwin also made the most out of his pass-catching. Goodwin caught 22 balls for 204 yards, which is 9.27 yards per reception. Goodwin also caught a touchdown pass against Minnesota.

The senior had himself a nice season despite having a few games here and there where he saw minimal touches, or no touches like against New Mexico. Coincidentally, those games were the games that Robert Martin was on fire and could not be brought down. Once Martin started to be injured, though, Goodwin became the full-time back.

Goodwin, besides his reception, did not score a touchdown until the final game against Maryland. Giovanni Rescigno, the quarterback who came in halfway through the season, had more rushing touchdowns than both Goodwin and Martin entering the final game of the season.

While Goodwin did not score often and he did have issues holding onto the ball at times, he had himself a solid bounce back year after almost no playing time under Kyle Flood in 2015.

Thank you for all of your effort and energy, Justin. We all wish you the best of luck post-graduation.

Josh Hicks

After a year where Josh Hicks was a secret weapon for the Rutgers offense averaging more than five yards per carry and scoring four touchdowns, Hicks definitely went backwards in his rushing game this season.

Hicks only attempted 45 rushes and gained 157 yards and no touchdowns. His average per carry was down to 3.5 this season.

Hicks saw almost all of his action and production in the first two games of the season. Hicks carried the ball 14 times against Washington for 70 yards and seven times for 44 yards against Howard. After that, Hicks struggled the see the ball more than five times a game.

A lot of his, or lack thereof, production on the part of Hicks was because he had to play safety for the defense when injuries started to pile up. Hicks playing defense was the reson why he did not see a single touch from Ohio State to Illinois. He also did not touch the ball against Maryland n the finale.

Fans expected more from Hicks, especially when Janarion Grant went down as a change-of-pace back. Unfortunately, his services were needed elsewhere and could not contribute the we he probably would have liked to.

With Justin Goodwin having himself a nice second-half of the season, Hicks was not needed as much either. Now, with Goodwin graduate, Hicks looks to return to 2015 form as a dominant back in the backfield for Rutgers.

Trey Sneed

The freshman back out of Orange Park, FL had some decent time played. He only carried the ball 16 times and gained 53 yards, which is 3.3 yards per carry. Those numbers are not great, but he seemed to pass the eye test.

Most of Sneed’s numbers are in garbage time minutes in the blowout wins or losses. Most of his carries, half actually, came against Michigan. Sneed carried the ball eight times for 27 yards and got the team their first first down of the night late in the fourth quarter. That first down was much needed and helped him look good to the coaches I am sure. Leave it to the freshman back to get the lone first down late in the game.

Outside of Michigan, Sneed did not touch the ball more than three times in any given game. The fact that Sneed saw action in a total of seven games, five of them in conference, could prove valuable in his development moving forward. Sneed will likely be the number three back behind Martin and Hicks coming into next season.

If Sneed can impress in camp, though, there is always the chance he moves up the depth chart.

Honorable Mention: Janarion Grant

Janarion Grant was the best player for Rutgers at every offensive position and special teams all season long, and he did not even play half the season.

As an athlete carrying the ball, Grant attempted 16 carries for a total of 138 yards and three touchdowns. His average per carry was an astounding 8.63 yards per carry.

Janarion Grant was severely missed this season after he went out for the year during the Iowa game. His production topped any player on the team at that point and tops even some still in certain categories. His three rushing touchdowns on 16 attempts by far trumps anyhting any other Rutgers offensive player could have fathomed doing this season.

Thank you too Janarion Grant for all of the highlights and scores you have brought to us Rutgers faithful.


This was a terrible season for Rutgers offensively. And defensively. And as a whole. It was not all so bad at first, and then Janarion Grant went down. That changed up our entire offensive strategy and eliminated the one real threat we had on offense. Him being out noticeably affected everything Rutgers did.

On the bright side, Rutgers has Robert Martin, Josh Hicks, and Trey Sneed all returning to action next season. Martin and Hicks have shown us they can be monsters and Sneed showed glimpses of what he could do as well.

Rutgers will have a new offensive coordinator at the helm next season which will affect how often and in what plays these athletes will carry the ball. Despite the philosophy and sceme, these backs should be involved. It was a bad year this year, but next year is different. Let these guys show the world what they are made of.