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Rutgers’ Backfield Struggles

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What Looked Like a Promising Group Had Their Issues in Seattle

Rutgers v Washington
Josh Hicks vs. Washington
Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

I have written a couple of pieces this summer about the Rutgers Running Back group and how promising they look. They did not look too promising this Saturday in Seattle when they combined for a total of 127 yards on 31 carries for an average of 4.1 yards a carry. That is not too terrible, but most of those yards came in the second quarter and half when Josh Hicks entered the game.

Robert Martin, the most promising of the backs, unfortunately had to sit this game out while he continues to nurse his sore hamstring. With him sitting, Justin Goodwin got the majority of the carries. Goodwin gained 49 yards on 15 carries for a medicore average of 3.3 yards a carry.

Josh Hicks did have himself a pretty good game, though, and was the one responsible for helping Rutgers down the field for their first score of the new era in the second quarter. Hicks ended up finishing the game with 70 yards on 14 carries which is within his usual range of 5.0 yards a carry.

Offensive Coordinator Drew Mehringer says that he liked what he saw out of Hicks and says he is ‘warranted more carries’ but he is not sure how much yet. Mehringer also says that Goodwin is still their guy and has not done anything to lose his spot quite yet. We will see if Goodwin can hold his spot on the depth chart or if Hicks can keep up the great attack and move himself up the depth chart as well.

Late in the game when it was officially “garbage time,” true Freshman running back, Trey Sneed entered the game. He only had two carries for 8 yards, but it is always good to see young, inexperienced players get some game action early in the season, especially when it is against a tough and ranked opponent.

While he is not a running back per say and I did not include him in the above running back statistics, Janarion Grant did Janarion Grant things as he gained 28 yards on 6 carries. He even played some quarterback during the game for a few plays. Look for him to get these carries to help open the field some more for our premiere backs.

Mehringer says he is going to try to get Grant the ball more as was evidenced with the Wildcat offense at times. The man-to-man defense Washington was using did not help the bubble screen they wanted to use to get Grant the ball in the open field. Hopefully he can get the ball in space more as the season progresses to do the things we know Grant can do.

While Rutgers’ Running Backs were not quite the force I and everyone thought they would be initially, one has to remember that our number one back was injured and we were playing a really tough Pac-12 team on the road under a new coach and a new system. I look forward to the game against Howard to boost the hype around this group and this team again going into New Mexico and into Conference play.

I stand by my prediction of Robert Martin and the entire backfield for Rutgers having big years. Unfortunately for us, we had one of the tougher tests out of the entire Big Ten along with Wisconsin to start out the year. I look for this team to gel together and grow together and become a fun team to watch in just a few more weeks.