Robert Martin is atop the depth chart and coming off of a solid season. Can he continue the success?
For those of you who have followed Rutgers football long enough know that there has been only a handful of workhorse running backs in our history. The most notable of these being Ray Rice. Last year, Rutgers had a running back by committee approach to the backfield, and it worked out pretty well for them.
Both Robert Martin and Paul James were in the top ten in the Big Ten Conference for yards per attempt at 5.4 and 5.5 respectively. Then there is Josh Hicks who is tied for eleventh at 5.2 yards per attempt. Hicks had four touchdowns, James had five, and Martin scored six touchdowns last season.
This season, though, Martin and Hicks will be without Paul James and it is a good battle to see who will come out the more dominant back this season.
At his press conference on Monday, Coach Chris Ash mentioned that Martin has deserved the chance to be the number one back. He was quick to say that that does not necessarily mean he will be the starter against Washington, but it is a good indication that he will be.
When Rutgers released their depth chart a few days ago, some noticed that Hicks is not even on the second team offense; Senior Justin Goodwin is listed as the primary backup. Goodwin only had eleven rushing attempts last season in the committee so it is very interesting that he is listed above Hicks after his solid year in the backfield.
But Martin seems to have the potential to be something special. ESPN highlighted back in July that Martin actually led the Big Ten is Yards after Contact, even beating Ezekiel Elliott. Martin had 2.84 yards after contact on average compared to Elliott’s 2.3 yards after contact.
With Hicks being on the third team offense, Martin is poised to have a breakout year. Having the six touchdowns and the 2.84 yards after contact and 5.4 yards per carry and 763 yards is a good sign for things to come. Time will tell who the backup will be between Hicks and Goodwin, but it is pretty clear that Martin is the number one back in this year’s spread offense. It should benefit him just as much as the committee approach maybe being less committee dependent.
Look for Martin to be one of the Big Ten’s leading rushers this year as he was dominant last year in his time on the field. If he gets more playing time than last year I look for him to near 1,000 yards and double digit touchdowns. Martin definitely has the potential to break himself apart from the backups making them only necessary for third downs and breathers.
With over 20 practices left this summer, things will certainly be interesting in this running back battle as they are all solid backs that can get the job done. What I want to see is how Martin handles being the number one back this summer and hopefully leading into the Fall as well. If he stays number one, look for big numbers and big moments from the Junior back.