Brooks will be worth the wait

On the one hand, you've got to feel for incoming running backs Coach Gary Brown, who immediately upon arrival must deal with the loss of the school's all-time leading rusher. On the other hand, there is an abundance of talent waiting in the wings. Amongst them, and one player that Rutgers fans have yet to see, is big-bruiser Jourdan Brooks.

Out of Seneca Valley HS [Germantown, MD] Jourdan Brooks selected Rutgers over offers from powers in the SEC, Big 10, and schools in the Big East. The bruising fullback/defensive end/linebacker prospect, projected by some as a linebacker in college, brought his big frame and impressive speed to Rutgers with the hope of filling the legendary shoes of Brian Leonard. Leonard was, perhaps, about 1-inch taller, but their build was similar, and their running style - both power 'backs - certainly fits the mold of what Rutgers fans have gotten used to seeing over the years: tough, hardnosed running.

Playing both ways in high school, Brooks might be, despite his size, a bit faster than Leonard was at this stage. Brooks was timed at a 4.53-second 40-yard dash while attending the Maryland Junior Combine and his speed has most certainly not diminished since.

"I'm at 235 now. When I first got here, I was 255 and I'm 235 now, so that's a big difference. I wasn't in the best shape, so I couldn't run for a long time, but now JB [i.e., Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Jay Butler] has got my conditioning going pretty good." Consequently, Brooks has noticed a little more hop in his step, something that may increase even further with more time on the field, adaptation to his offensive line, and of course, more work with JB.

Having Kordell Young's impressive acceleration, Mason Robinson's ability to run between the tackles - something he displayed more of as the 2007 season wore on - the competitiveness of Joe Martine, and to that, the added bonus of a 'back that likes to bring the house down has got to be very appetizing to the RU staff.

"I think I'm a bruiser. I'm big and defenses don't like to tackle big people." Defenses certainly had their share of trouble bringing down Brian Leonard, of similar build, but they also had issues bringing down Ray Rice. The change of pace that Rutgers, in an ideal situation, hopes to unleash on the opposition, gives the Scarlet Knights an added dimension they haven't had since Leonard's graduation.

But, as was the case with Mason Robinson, Brooks was quick to deflect the compliments and applauded his teammates.

"All of us have great talent and all of us have something to bring to the table. So I think we all should be good this year," stated Brooks, referring to the possibility of a bit of thunder and lightning and the complementary roles each of the 'backs are capable of playing.

Brooks spent the 2007 season, his true Fr. year at Rutgers, as a member of the scout team and therefore did not see any action. But that time was well spent, in the majority of cases trying to imitate that week's opposing running backs - typically smaller, shiftier runners that have the ability to cut on a dime. "That helped me a lot because trying to imitate them, it helped me work on the other aspects of my game like being shifty."

It's a wide-open race during spring camp and knowing that nobody will come out of the spring season as the guy has got be somewhat settling to RU's stable of young 'backs.

"I just want to get better [this spring], learning the offense like the back of my hand and just doing everything the best that I can," concluded Brooks.

Matei may be reached at mgeorge@rutgersfootball.com

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