Joe Martinek, who exploded on the scene out of seemingly nowhere in 2008 with 404 yards and four touchdowns, showed during this past spring that his redshirt freshman season was no fluke. Further, it displayed that he can be an every down ‘back if need be.
A much more muscular version of Martinek than had been seen in 2008 saw the brunt of the action in the spring, culminating in his three-touchdown performance in the spring game.
Junior Mason Robinson was the only other healthy member of head coach Greg Schiano's four man running back rotation from last season, but he saw very little action in the backfield.
Because of the losses of Kenny Britt, Tiquan Underwood and Dennis Campbell at wide receiver, Robinson made the move to a depleted wideout corps where he played for the majority of the spring with the first and second team offenses.
"It's going pretty well, trying to keep learning and keep picking up everything that I can. [I] try to be a sponge with everything and absorb everything," Robinson said during the spring on the transition to receiver.
"When I was younger I just really focused on catching the ball and trying to work on everything in my overall game. It just comes from playing backyard football where you have a quarterback and everybody out there is a receiver. That's what it comes down to."
Sophomore halfbacks Tyrone Putman and Ben Boursiquot flourished because of a very deep offensive line and the absences of Brooks and Young as both were able to exceed 100 yards in team scrimmages before Putman went down with a broken arm.
Senior fullback Jack Corcoran also thrived in spring practice. Corcoran emerged as a better pass catcher than in previous seasons after his six catch performance in the Papajohns.com Bowl and will likely serve as a safety blanket on short passes for whoever wins the quarterback battle.
For Schiano, summer training camp will be where he truly decides what to do at running back. He has the option of continuing the committee from last season that saw Brooks, Martinek and Young all exceed 400 yards and four touchdowns or he could decide on one of the three, with all being legitimate contenders, as the feature back of the Rutgers offense in a season where the run game is expected to be the center of the offense.
Brooks, best known for his 134-yard two touchdown performance against Navy last season, injured his knee in the third of 15 spring practices, but Schiano said that he will be ready come day one of summer camp.
The same story goes for Young who missed the entire spring after complications from a knee injury last season. The former Big East Offensive Player of the Week will be ready for the long haul in training camp.
Putman, after the arm break, is still questionable as to when his return to the Scarlet Knights will be, Schiano said.
It is not just newly healed players that will join the backfield, however, as running back De'Antwan Williams and fullback Robert Joseph join the squad as incoming freshmen.
Williams, from Woodbridge, V.A., stands at just 5'7", but packs a big punch at 207 pounds and is ranked as the 52nd best running back in the class of 2009 according to Scout.com. The three-star recruit ran for over 1900 yards and 23 touchdowns as a senior and chose the Scarlet Knights despite offers from Boston College, Maryland, Pittsburgh, Virginia and West Virginia.
Robert Joseph, ranked as the No. 19 fullback in the incoming freshman class according to Scout.com, is listed at 6'1, and 225 pounds. The promising recruit by way of Brooklyn [NY] was recruited as a FB. However, he has shown impressive athletic ability and gives the RU coaching staff a number of options.
Make sure to also see previous Training Camp Preview installments:
Offensive Line [Non-Premium]
Training camp preview: Running Backs
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