Doak Walker Finalist

This season has been a huge success for Rutgers running back Ray Rice. He is a finalist for the Doak Walker Award, which was created in 1989 to recognize the nation's premier running back for his accomplishments on the field, achievement in the classroom, and citizenship in the community. Rice is a final candidate along with Michigan's Mike Hart and Arkansas' Darren McFadden.

Rice is the top ranked rusher among players from BCS conference schools with 1,612 yards. In only his junior season, he has already rushed for 4,526 yards, which is the most in Rutgers history and places him second in Big East history.

On top of all of this, Rice is still in the running for the Heisman trophy this season, though he'll need a major performance in RU's final regular season game to remind voters. Head coaches are known for campaigning for players at times and depending upon how the season wraps up, so might Rutgers Head Coach Greg Schiano.

"I think he has very impressive numbers and he still has a game to play," Coach Schiano said. "I think if there was somebody heads and shoulders (better), then it would be a waste of time. Let's see how Ray finishes up and he is finalist for the Doak Walker Award, which is a very prestigious award."

The questions will remain for the rest of the season about whether Rice will declare for the NFL draft and forgo his senior season. Rice has stated several times that this is a matter that he will address at the end of the season and will not discuss until then.

However, his teammates have noticed how hard he has worked to get better and how much more valuable he is to Rutgers this season.

"This summer, he (Rice) worked on catching the ball more and it showed this season," RU wide receiver Tiquan Underwood said. "He had a lot more screens and catches with Brian (Leonard) being gone and taking a bulk of that role. I believe he is an all around, complete back."

Rice was perhaps at his best in Rutgers' biggest win of the season. He rushed for 181 yards against then No. 2 South Florida when the Scarlet Knights upset the Bulls 30-27. In fact, Rice has raised his level of play as the season has gone on. He did not rush for over 100 yards in three straight games against Norfolk State, Maryland, and Cincinnati. Despite those three games, Rice is only 182 yards behind his total from last season and he still has two more games to play.

"It was a lot tougher this year running the ball," Rice said. "Teams knew about me and we didn't sneak up on anybody. Being where I am at right now, I can't say that I am satisfied, but it is still a great accomplishment."

A good offensive line is important to the success of any running back and Rice has succeeded this season despite key injuries to left tackle Pedro Sosa and right tackle Jeremy Zuttah, which has limited the amount that both men could do this season.

"We had our bumps and bruises but overall, I think they have done a great job," Rice added.

Zuttah, who is a senior leader for the Knights, has been impressed by what Rice has brought to the table this season.

"Ray is a special player," Zuttah said. "There are not many talents like that in college football. When he came in he was really just a pure runner, now he can do so much more. He is one of the best pass protectors at running back. He is catching the ball out of the backfield more often now too."

Despite the pressures of being up for awards and having to deal with the extra burden that comes from Rutgers' quarterback Mike Teel's injured right thumb, Rice said he is not putting anything extra on himself.

"The way Mike Teel practiced this week, I think he will be ready to go," Rice said. "Getting the time off actually helps. We will come in with a game plan and once we get the game plan, we will see what happens."

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