The Competition – The battle that began on National Signing Day in 2014 continues. Robert Martin and Josh Hicks are an exciting duo. Both can expect plenty of reps this season and, if they stay healthy, represent the cornerstone of the offense.
Martin saw significantly more first-team work in spring camp. Expect him to be the first man on out Saturdays but also expect quick adjustments if Hicks or another option make explosive plays.
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More interestingly is what happens behind Martin and Hicks. True freshman Trey Sneed exploded onto the scene in spring. He's a lock to play this season but how many reps are available behind the big two? Sneed worked primarily with the twos and threes in spring. The Fleming Island (Fla.) star is one injury away from a major role.
Senior Justin Goodwin's backfield vision set him apart from other running backs in Kuhr's words. Goodwin told Scarlet Report in spring that he is open to any potential role in the offense, including reps at wide receiver or slot. His knowledge of the offense made him the third-down back last season.
Storyline Central – Perhaps the most illuminating portion of running back coach Zak Kuhr's spring practice media session was his commentary on a multi-back system. Since Ray Rice's departure after the 2007 season, Rutgers primarily defined itself as a “hot hand” program in the ground game. That won't change, but the number of guys in the rotation may.
“I've never done three or four,” Kuhr said. “I've done three a couple of times. Usually I want to give some of these guys to get a chance to get going. When you rotate three or four, it's hard to get going. … If one guy's crushing it, he might stay in. If we're having issues, we're going to keep something going until someone gets it. It could be anywhere from one to four.”
The series-by-series approach became excruciating at times but it gave everyone a chance to play.
Prospect Development – Sneed should be the focus in developmental periods for the Rutgers running backs. Converted fullback Shaquan Oliver could have a future role in the red-zone, but Sneed needs to learn as much as possible in his first training camp. Rutgers has two potential feature backs committed in 2017 but Hicks and Martin would both be seniors next season in addition to Goodwin's departure.
Preseason Grade – A- – As individuals, the Rutgers running backs still have a lot to prove. As a group in the power spread offense, this can be a dynamic group mixed with experience and electricity.