Position Analysis: Running backs

Rutgers offense has questions heading into the offseason, and one of them is what the tailbacck situation will look like. In ScarletReport.com's continuing series, we take a look at the tailback situation. Who is coming back, and who may be back, and who is on the recruiting board all factor into how this position will develop in the spring.

There is the unknown of the offensive line and the uncertainty with the quarterback depth, and Rutgers' running back situation falls squarely between them as it enters the offseason.

The only loss to graduation was third-down specialist Kordell Young, but coach Greg Schiano acknowledged freshman running back Casey Turner could also wind up transferring.

The recruitment of five-star running St.Peter's Prep (Jersey City, N.J.) running back Savon Huggins will also impact what the Scarlet Knights' backfield will look like in 2011, but for now the focus is on the offseason, and the players in the program.

Freshman Jordan Thomas, who entered training camp as a receiver, led the Scarlet Knights in rushing with 417 yards on 95 carries. He also ran for a score.

Thomas showed the speed to get to the corner, and in his limited time running between the tackles late in the season, ran with attitude and enough wiggle to make a few tacklers miss. He also was an asset in the passing game, catching 16 passes for 223 yards and two scores.

But 6-foot-1, 185-pound Thomas will need to increase his upper body strength and run with a lower pad level to be a featured back, if he stays in the backfield.

Schiano didn't talk about switching Thomas' position, but the projection while he was in from high school was he would make a tremendous safety. Also, he was shifted to running back after a few practices in training camp because of necessity, but he was off to a good start at receiver.

The offseason should also give red-shirt junior running back Joe Martinek time to recover from the ankle sprain that hampered him since the second game of the season, and wound up worse than it was in the middle of the season.

Martinek was limited to few carries the last six weeks, and finished with 85 carries for 276 yards and four touchdowns. He ran more north-south than he did as a sophomore, but the poor play of the offensive line gave him little chance to demonstrate how different his approach was going to be.

The real intrigue as to what Rutgers' running back position will look like comes after Thomas and Martinek.

Freshman Jawan Jamison never became part of the equation after he missed July conditioning to deal with a personal issue in Jacksonville, but will get plenty of reps in spring practice.

Turner looked tremendous in the early stretches of training camp, but a groin injury led to groin surgery, which led to frustrating rehab and setback after setback. Even during the end-of-season press conference Sunday, Schiano said Turner was still bothered by the groin injury.

And, the frustration of the not being able to play because of the injury is one of the reasons Turner transferring surfaced.

If he stays, he will compete for the starting running back spot in the spring. He is a hard-nosed runner with speed to get to the edge, and has the body and mentality to handle 25 carries a game.

Sophomore De'Antwan Williams also is in the mix, although he didn't distinguish himself with the few opportunities he received late in the season. Fans clamored for Williams to get an opportunity, and in the last four games he rushed 10 times for 21 yards.

There should be other options in the 2011 recruiting class as well, and it goes beyond whether Huggins picks Rutgers or not.

The Scarlet Knights have commitments from Absegami High (Absecon, N.J.) running back Ben Martin and Cocoa (Fla.) High running back Chevelle Buie, although he is a soft commit and was recruited to play slot receiver.

Also, Neptune (N.J.) High's Charles Davis, who committed in the spring, is coming in as a defensive back, but played running back at Neptune.

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