Moving Forward: Full House at Running Back

Rutgers has a trio of weapons at running back and more proven depth than any other time in recent school history. With fifth-year senior Paul James back for his last ride and Quick Lane MVP Josh Hicks headed into his sophomore year, running back is a strength for the Scarlet Knights.

The Competition -- This is the kind of competition where everybody wins. Rutgers has three legitimate options for its feature back in Paul James, Josh Hicks and Robert Martin. The three combined for 1,237 yards and 14 touchdowns last season. Unlike the quarterback position where a team is best with a defined starter, a deep running back group only makes Rutgers more dangerous and unpredictable. With unproven players in the passing game, this trio is the best gun in the Rutgers armory.

James returns in training camp from another leg injury, and brings the most complete look at the position. James is a receiving threat and above average pass protector to go along with his electric running style.

Hicks and Martin are both powerful backs with decisive cuts and athleticism. Both are red zone threats, and Hicks returns after an MVP showing in the 2014 Detroit Quick Lane Bowl.

And by no means should people write off juniors Desmon Peoples or Justin Goodwin. People led Rutgers in rushing last season. Don’t forget that.

Storyline Central -- Head coach Kyle Flood’s philosophy in past seasons is to ride the hot hand at running back, and 2015 is unlikely to be any different. Someone is going to emerge in the first two camp scrimmages, and that man starts against Norfolk State. But after that, look for game-by-game adjustments from the Rutgers staff. Rutgers has a little bit of everything. James is the most complete package, Hicks is a home-run power guy, Martin was the best in the red zone last season and both Peoples and Goodwin offer different changes of pace.

Prospect Development -- Incoming freshman Charles Snorweah has a rough road to playing time. He underwent offseason shoulder surgery that likely has him out or limited for training camp. Snorweah also faces a stacked position group ahead of him and needs to get bigger and stronger. However, one can never overlook 2,800 rushing yards and 41 touchdowns as a senior. Snorweah is a yard machine, but he needs time in the system before he comes into his own.

Preseason Grade -- B+ -- There is tons of talent in the running back room, both experienced and raw, but there are still plenty of questions. Can James stay healthy? Will he truly be at 100 percent? Can Martin better protect the football? What roles can Peoples and Goodwin expect after younger players surpassed them? Rutgers has impressive option, but they still have to prove they can do it for more than a two- or three-game spurt. Rutgers started five different running backs last year. This season could see the same number.


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