Preview: Rutgers RB for 2008

Let's assume that Ray Rice leaves for the NFL. The students, fans and media have been treated to 4 consecutive yrs of an offense built around talented running stars Brian Leonard and Ray Rice. Approximately 8 to 10 candidates are waiting in the wings to prove that they are the new hope. This article will review the depth at RB and help us to speculate the future of the Scarlet running game.

Life on the banks without Ray Rice.  Reviewing the 2007 regular season statistics reveals just how much Ray Rice carried the Knights to its 7-5 season.  Incredibly, Ray was involved with 50% of the total offensive plays, was responsible for 75% of the total rushing yards and 33% of the total offensive yards gained.  Defensive coordinators could simply instruct their defense to stop Ray Rice and you've stopped the Rutgers offense.  Ray leaving for the NFL, automatically makes the opposing defensive coordinators job much more difficult.  Suddenly there is no  one for the defense to key on.  In 2008 Rutgers can seize the opportunity to diversify their running game as much as they have with their passing game.  There are multiple backs of varying sizes, weights and speed but  blessed with a ton of athleticism that can add electricity to the offensive attack.  Let's take a look at who we have.

Raymell Rice  5'9" 205  JR – The all-time leading rusher and the most decorated RB in Rutgers history. It goes without saying that he will be a member of the Rutgers Hall of Fame and should be under heavy consideration for having his jersey number retired. With nothing else to proof, he will likely declare for the NFL draft.

Jean Beljour   6'0" 222  -  Coming out of Hackensack HS, Beljour was rated as one of the top 50 running backs in the nation and the #8 recruit in his class from New Jersey.  He was considered a great catch for the rebuilding Knights. This season, he saw his most game action with two starts. For the most part, Beljour became a team leader and was a key player on all of the special team units throughout his career.

Kordell Young  5'9" 193  JR ; Rated the 7th best all purpose back nationally, and considered the 9th best player of his  class in New Jersey, the All from West Deptford played in 11 games. As a true freshman, carrying the ball 29 times for 152 and 3 while also hauling in 3 passes for 39 yards. As a freshman he also returned 4 kicks for 111 yards which represented a team leading 27.8 average per return.  Falling victim to a knee injury as a sophomore, Kordell was limited to only three games in 2007.  He managed only 18 carries for 65 yards but once again displayed his electricity returning 3 kicks for 96 yards.  With Rice likely gone, Young will need to add more bulk while maintaining his speed to handle more between the tackles running. His time rehabbing his injured knee should help him in that regard but he will miss spring football.

Mason Robinson  5'10" 195  SO -  One of the fastest players in state history, Mason was considered the 7th best player of his class in New Jersey.  Hoping to redshirt, Mason was pressed into action as a backup tailback when Kordell Young suffered his season ending injury.  He appeared a bit unsure of himself at the onset but steadily gained confidence as the year wore on.  In 9 games, as a true freshman, Mason carried the ball 32 times for 191 yards (5.9 avg), returned 4 punts for 29 yards and 10 kickoffs for 211 yards.  On more than a few occasions Mason began to show his true breakaway ability. However, Robinson has been noted as being a "straight line" that looks for contact rather than missing people miss. At the start of spring football, Robinson will likely be the starting RB. The repetitions will allow him to get a better grasp of the offensive particularly pass blocking.

Jack Corcoran  6'1" 237  JR – Arrived at Rutgers following a stellar All State career gaining 3,683 yards with 70 td's, while leading his team to a 41-3 record.  He was also an NJSIAA 215lb state wrestling champion.  Used mainly as a fullback he has only carried the ball 4 times for 30 yards while catching 4 passes for 20 yards in his first 2 years as a Scarlet Knight.  After studying him during the spring game and early in the season, it can be concluded that he had similar tools to those of Brian Leonard, with perhaps a little more speed. He was not given the luxury of a red shirt year as was Brian Leonard.  Corcoran will need to improve his blocking to regain his starting FB position. With the Rutgers offense needing a "big back" for short yardage and to soften the defense, Corcoran could be the right fit.

Jourdan Brooks  6'1" 247  rsFR  - An intriguing prospect who spent his first year as a redshirt.  He possesses the rare combination of size, speed and athleticism.  A bruising but elusive runner with 4.5 speed he was a 3 year starter for Seneca Valley HS of Germantown, Md.   Jourdan was considered the 7th best player in his class from the State of Maryland while averaging 8.1 yards per carry as a senior.  It should be very interesting to see how he develops during spring and summer practice to determine his impact on next year's edition of the Scarlet Knights.

Joe Martinek  6'0" 212  rsFR – The 2006 Gatorade New Jersey State Player of the Year following his senior year at Hopatcong HS, Joe finished his remarkable career as the all time leading rusher in New Jersey state history with 7,589 yards and 80 touchdowns.  He is also 38th all time nationally in career rushing yards.  An incredible athlete, he was the NJ State  javelin champion invited to compete in California at the national level.  Blessed with deceptive 4.5 speed combined with an uncanny control of his acceleration, Joe's running style is similar to that of Pat White of West Virginia.  Following a redshirt year he will have the opportunity to surprise many with his skills as a ball carrier. His athleticism also allows the Rutgers staff the flexibility to use Joe as a cornerback or safety if needed.

Andres Morales  6'2" 255 rsSO – An absolute crusher.  The classic old school style blocking fullback.  Andres was a PrepStar all east selection following his senior season at huge Liberty High School of Bethlehem Pa, a member of the vicious Lehigh Valley Conference.  A three year starter and two year captain he was selected to play in the prestigious Big33 All-Star game against the State of Ohio. Not to be considered a great ball carrier, his role was to act as a pulling guard in the backfield and help open holes for running back Ray Rice.  Very fast and quick to the hole for a man his size Andres will become even more impressive as his experience grows.  In order to keep the defense honest, Morales will need to take a few hand-offs. He is the type of player that could also be successful as a tight end, middle linebacker, defensive end or defensive tackle.  He is a football player.

Rashad White  5'10" 167  recruit – A breakaway, electrifying runner with more gears than a 10 speed bike.  He has been recruited by Notre Dame, Michigan State, Michigan, Miami, Florida, Pitt, UConn, Maryland, Cincinnati and the list goes on and on.  I'm told he possesses great hands, unbelievable vision, and flat out 4.35 speed.  He averaged 8.47 yds pc as a senior. Rashad considers himself an athlete and is willing to play tailback, wide receiver, cornerback, or he'll return punts and kicks, whatever the coaching staff prefers.  A true talent that will positively impact the Knights….. somewhere.

Onterio McCalebb  6'0" 174  recruit -   Speedster, versatile, explosive, dangerous, electrifying just to name a few.  Another extreme athlete with 4.35 speed, Onterio can play tailback, slotback, wide out, return punts, and return kicks.  He is one of the fastest players available from the state of Florida and has received offers from the SEC, the ACC and the Big East. 

Jabu Lovelace  6'2" 212  rsJR –  Thinking outside of the box.  Imagine a fast, tall, athletic tailback with the ability to throw the option pass.  Jabu has carried the ball 91 times for 408 yards in his career, mostly picking holes in the middle.  How would he do on plays designed to go wide?  How about when he pulls up to pass??  With an influx of quarterbacks, Jabu could free to showcase his talents as a running back.

The loss of Ray Rice may be a blessing in disguise.  With a reliable player like Ray on the field, it allowed the staff to become complacent and predictable in their approach to the running game.  The Rutgers offense can now become more diversified with both the tailback and fullback receiving carries during a game.  The staff can experiment with multiple tandems as predicted by game conditions.  Players like Young, Robinson, White and McCalebb allows for an infusion of game breaking speed and pass catching ability.  Larger backs like Brooks, Corcoran, Morales and Martinek could allow for a late game ball control offense by putting more size and power onto the field.  Lovelace lining up at tailback places the fear of the sweep or wide option pass into the minds of linebackers and defensive backs.  These youngsters along with the rebuilt, youthful offensive line will have the bowl practice schedule along with spring and summer practice to prepare for 2008.  Teamed up with the established passing attack, we could be on the verge of an exciting season.   

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