The strength of the team in 2015 was supposed to be the running backs. To an extent, they delivered. The three stars, Robert Martin, Josh Hicks, and Paul James combined for 370 carries, 1,981 yards, and 15 TDs. It was not all smooth sailing, however. Paul James was clearly no longer the player he was before suffering a heartbreaking torn ACL against Navy in 2014. He was slow, couldn't find the hole, and never got into a rhythm as a runner. Robert Martin proved to be the best running back on the team, leading the Scarlet Knights in carries, yards, and TDs.
Paul James certainly had his moments, including his 3 TD performance against Army and his huge 72 yard run against Michigan State. However, it was clear his days were numbered as the top back on the team. The bigger issue with the unit was consistency. They couldn't do anything against the better defenses in the conference such as Penn State and Wisconsin. If this unit wants to be great and reach their full potential, they need to show up every game.
Josh Hicks showed that he can make up for offensive line errors, as he had several runs in which he eluded multiple defenders deep in the Rutgers backfield. Robert Martin showed he has the strength and stamina to be the feature back, even if it isn't required of him. With Paul James gone, there are about 100 carries to split between the two. It could be exciting and if all goes right, Rutgers could have two 1,000-yard rushers.
Jr Josh Hicks
Jr Robert Martin
Sr Justin Goodwin
RS-Sr Desmond Peoples
RS-Fr Jeffrey Farina
RS-Sr Greg Jones
Fr Trey Sneed
RS-Fr Charles Snorweah
It is clear that the running backs are in 3 different territories in terms of talent and playing time potential. Hicks and Martin are the cream of the crop and will dominate the snap count this season. In tier 2 there are the change of pace backs, Justin Goodwin and Desmond Peoples. Peoples proved to be a great option catching the ball out of the backfield and Goodwin is a good third-down back who can block well and has done just about everything for this team in the past 3 years, including playing defense.
Familiarizing with the read option
One of the challenges for the backs will be running the read option with the quarterbacks. While many of them ran spread offenses in high school, this is all new stuff for Rutgers as a team. Chris Laviano has probably never ran the read option and Hayden Rettig hasn't done so since 4 years ago in high school. Similar to QBs gaining chemistry with centers, the HBs and QBs will need to work together to get down the timing and rhythm of the read option.
Is there a competition?
On the surface, it doesn't seem like there is much of a competition for snaps in this position group. However, every year a running back seems to get hurt and guys get thrown into action. Can Justin Goodwin continue to be the guy who steps in when there is no one else? Did you know Desmond Peoples lead the team in rushing in 2014? Anything can happen with this group on this team. For all we know, Trey Sneed comes in and blows the roof off the place. The possibilities are endless here, especially with a new coaching staff that has no loyalty towards any of these players.
The fullbacks :(
Unfortunately, the fullbacks no longer have a place on the team. The fullback position gave us some fan favorites over the years and the position will be missed. From the beloved seemingly 8-year starter Michael Burton, to one of the greatest players in Rutgers history, Brian Leonard, the fullback position has given us some legends. The current fullbacks on the roster are all true sophomores:
- Max Anthony
- Conor Dowd
- Shaquan Oliver
It is possible that some of these guys transfer, although I could see a guy like Max Anthony switch to linebacker where there is a depth issue and where he also played in high school.
This one is pretty simple but also pretty lengthy.
- Robert Martin
- Josh Hicks
- Justin Goodwin
- Desmond Peoples
- Charles Snorweah
- Greg Jones
- Jeffrey Farina
- Trey Sneed (projected redshirt)