We the Peoples: Soph Duo Step in for James

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Rutgers prides itself on establishing a running game, and that now means feature roles for sophomores Desmon Peoples and Justin Goodwin. With 846 career rushing yards and six touchdowns between the two, the Peoples and Goodwin combination makes its true debut against Tulane in six days.

Justin Goodwin and Desmon Peoples have each come far since holes in their game prevented them from consistent playing time in 2013.

For Goodwin, the issues came in pass protection where he showed inconsistencies as a true freshman. For Peoples, fumble problems arose upon arrival and durability became a concern for the 5-foot-8, 175-pound back.

Now progress out of the offseason truly puts itself to the test with the loss of Paul James with a torn ACL.

“Injuries are something that’s an unfortunate part of this game but we’ve got to keep moving,” said senior left guard Kaleb Johnson. “… I have nothing but confidence in them. They jumped right in there and had 100-yard games. Going forward, a guy like Goodwin and a guy like Desmon, they’re already in the rotation. They’re trying to continue what they’re doing. These younger guys are going to come in and show that we have some of the best running backs in the country.”

Goodwin made a successful return to running back against Navy after a three-week stint with the cornerbacks. The sophomore is best known for his game-winning run against SMU in triple overtime last season.

With six rushing touchdowns to his name, Goodwin can expect a heavy workload against Tulane after bouncing back from an upper body injury.

“It’s a tough loss to our team and our offense because [James] is such a good player,” Goodwin said. “… I think we’re just going to have to step up a lot more – just continue to work hard.”

The way Peoples became a co-starter is tough, he said, because he is close with James. But the result is something he envisioned since a junior-year commitment to Rutgers out of Warminster (Pa.) Archbishop Wood.

“Since the first day I got here, this is what I wanted so I’m pretty happy,” Peoples said. “… I was anticipating it when I saw him go down and I just got ready to take the load.”

Peoples and Goodwin project to split work in practice this week leading into the game. Freshmen Josh Hicks and Robert Martin are not listed on the depth chart at running back, but began competition for the third spot Sunday night during practice.

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