In the new two-running back set featured on the Rutgers offense, Josh Hicks found his role.
After a brief hiatus from the offense as he moved to aid a thin secondary on defense, Hicks returned to running back with a package that fits his style of play.
“Two running backs, it’s been real good,” Hicks said. “I like how it can open up ways. I like it for the offense and keep the defense on their heels. Everything’s good with two running backs.”
Hicks addressed his stint on defense, and a move back to running back where he is third in rushing with 136 yards on 36 attempts.
“I don’t mind (being on defense),” he said. “It’s all for the team. I’ll do anything for the team. I like to help my team win and that’s all I’m trying to do is just help my team win.”
Running backs coach Zak Kuhr said he hopes to expand the impact of the two-running back set, especially with Hicks in the fold.
“I like it a lot,” Kuhr said. “We’re going to expand a little bit more, get a little more stuff going. I think they started keying on Josh a little bit. They started setting some edges, so we’re going to get a little game plan to go around that a little bit.”
Kuhr said Hicks bought in on the game plan.
“I think he’s done really well,” Kuhr said of Hicks. “I think he’s locked in. He’s focused. We’re just talking about winning every rep right now, and he’s doing that.”
Ash Weighs in...
Rutgers coach Chris Ash looked big picture during today's teleconference with national media.
As Rutgers prepares for the final stretch of its 2016 slate, coach Chris Ash and his team do so with lessons learned from a brutal first half of the season.
With a rough string of lopsided losses to Ohio State and Michigan are in the rearview, Ash said the Scarlet Knights answered the call to compete ever since.
“When you play those types of teams back to back, it really tests not only your depth but also your physical make up,” Ash said. “They’re physical football games, they’re tough football games and you get a lot of bumps and bruises when you play those types of teams and it is a challenge.
“It’s one that several teams have to do. We did it, probably have to do it in the future too, but no doubt … it tests you, and the tough part is just coming out of those games with where we’re at now — physically healthy — so you can have your best foot forward going against the rest of the teams on your schedule.”
One possession away from wins in each of the past two losses at Minnesota and against Indiana, Rutgers now looks to snap a six-game skid Saturday at noon at Michigan State.
While quarterback remains a question for the Spartans (2-7, 0-6) a year after the departure of Connor Cook, the run game is a top strength. Michigan State features LJ Scott and Gerald Holmes in a balanced rushing attack.
Ash, who schemed against both last year when he was the co-defensive coordinator at Ohio State, is aware of the challenges they present.
“I would guess that they would continue to do what they’ve done all year,” Ash said. “They have two tailbacks — they’re very productive. They’re very talented players.”
The 6-foot-1, 230-pound Scott leads the Spartans on the ground with 653 yards and four touchdowns on 129 carries. Behind Scott, Holmes brings a team-high five rushing touchdowns into the mix.
Rutgers has the worst rush defense in the Big Ten at 248.4 yards per game, but improved against Indiana last week when it held the Hoosiers to 3.3 yards per carry.
“They do some similar things, but they’re a little bit different,” Ash said of Scott and Holmes. “One’s a big, physical back. One’s a little faster, better change of direction type of back. They present different challenges, but they’re both very good. And regardless of who’s in there, we got to go play great defense and I’m sure they’re expecting to get good offensive production regardless of who’s in there.”