In a red-zone series with the first team offense shortly before the end of Saturday’s scrimmage, Josh Hicks scampered roughly 10 yards out and plunged across the goal line for what was the second touchdown of the day by a Rutgers running back.
Of course, the end zone is no place new to Hicks, who rushed for six touchdowns and caught another in his first two years as a Scarlet Knight.
“It was good being out there with the crowd being out there,” Hicks said. “It’s amazing. It’s an experience. I like to perform in front of an audience and show them off your talent. It’s an amazing experience.”
Hicks, who capped his day with three rushes for 14 yards, took a step in the right direction with the small sample size from the scrimmage.
After the end of the spring and summer, Hicks opened training camp in a slide on the two-deep depth chart behind teammates Robert Martin and Justin Goodwin.
But Hicks didn’t let the placement alter his work ethic or chemistry with the rest of the running backs in the room.
“We’re all brothers,” Hicks said. “All of us are competitive. The next guy can come in. It’s real competitive and, as you know, in the running back position, it can be real tough at times. And they all have to bring their A-game everyday.”
The Palmetto (Fla.) product became an immediate contributor after former Rutgers workhorse Paul James went down with an ACL injury in 2014.
Hicks finished a successful first year in Piscataway as the 2014 Quick Lane Bowl MVP, where he rushed for 202 yards and a touchdown to lead Rutgers past North Carolina.
Alongside Martin, Hicks emerged as one of the top ball carriers the offense had to offer. He amassed 1,114 yards on the ground with a team-best average of 5.6 yards per carry over the two-year span of his freshman and sophomore seasons.
While head coach Chris Ash said Hicks “has to be more consistent” when he addressed the depth chart placement of the junior last Monday, running backs coach Zak Kuhr said Hicks came on strong towards the end of the first week.
“They’re all competing still for the starting gig, and Josh has had an unbelievable past three practices,” Kuhr said on Sunday. “He got reps with the ones (in the scrimmage) … he’s probably one of the higher grade outs, him and (Goodwin). So, whatever he’s been doing, he needs to keep doing that because I wouldn’t say he’s out of it. Not one bit. He’s still got a chance to be the guy.”
To get there, Hicks has to wipe his mind clean of the pro-style offense as he learns a new scheme. But in a power-spread offense reliant on a run-first approach, Hicks looks forward to the dynamic it brings.
“I like it because in the spread offense, you don’t know what’s going to happen,” Hicks said. “It’s a lot of space out there. It causes the defense to be unbalanced and, as you know, that’s like an assist.”
While the current running backs room is an arms race for reps, Hicks has his focus centered on his development to fit the new offense.
The way he plans to get there — work.
“Everyday,” Hicks said. “Me and Rob, we’ve been (competing) since our freshman year. Me and him have been competitive, but at the end of the day, he’s on my team and that’s my brother. Justin Goodwin, he’s been here for four years.
“It’s a dogfight, man. Everyday it’s a dogfight. It’s always competing and we’re trying to learn from each other. We’re also trying to compete off each other every time.”