Breakout Performer 2009? Jack Corcoran

Jack Corcoran had one of the hardest jobs in the country in 2007. He was tasked with attempting to replace a Rutgers living legend on the football field. Working as Brian Leonard's back-up, Rutgers fans saw a lot of him in Jack and were hoping he'd step right in. After 2 seasons of steady improvement, some are left thinking that Jack has a great chance to be a Breakout Performer this year.

Lead blocking for the best running back (Ray Rice) in Rutgers history for 2 years and learning from the best fullback in Rutgers history for a year gave Jack Corcoran a great start to his college career. Hailing from a little town in South Jersey, where route 206 and route 30 meet, called Hammonton, Jack was a prize recruit for Coach Greg Schiano in 2006. At the time, it was well documented how South Jersey recruiting was basically owned by Penn State, Temple, and Maryland by many newspapers around the state of NJ. So, the 2006 signing day was the start of the invasion of South Jersey by Rutgers and Greg landed a recruit, who selected Rutgers over Penn State, who had the size, speed, and potential of his current fullback (Brian Leonard).

Coming out of high school as an All-Stater at 6' 1" and 225 lbs, Corcoran already fit the bill of a big time fullback at 17. He was big, strong, and was a heavy producer on the high school football field. He showed devastating blocking ability, great hands, and a nose for the end zone. Eager to get that talent on the field, Jack started learning and developing right away in the summer of 2006. He was such a quick learner that Schiano gave him the responsibility to play as blocking fullback for short yardage and goal line situations, which mainly meant he was blocking for his mentors (Leonard and Rice), during Rutgers 2006 season. He logged playing time in nearly every game, except the first, in 2006 and showed glimpses of the huge potential he had logging 5 carries for 30 yards on the year.

In 2007, Jack saw his role as a fullback change a little bit. He was the most versatile fullback on the team and could catch the ball out of the backfield for the offense. It was a way for Rutgers pro-style offense to keep opposing defenses honest the way many NFL teams utilize a fullback. Playing along side bulldozing fullback Andres Morales, who was used exclusively on running downs, Jack showed Rutgers fans glimpses of what was to come. Jack's eye hand coordination was that of a receiver and it would become apparent with some of the tough circus catches he'd make out of the backfield. It was also apparent that he'd be providing Rutgers a lot of looks on 3rd down that would keep defenses guessing, much the way his mentor (Leonard) would. Morales and Corcoran provided a perfect 1-2 punch, so neither wore themselves out, and Jack ended up logging 7 catches for 56 yards on the year.

Fans, sportscasters, and students alike knew how much potential the offense returned for the 2008 season. Basically, the only area that wasn't returning a starter was right guard and running back so Rutgers was primed for success. Jack was now the most experienced person in the backfield and his success at establishing a starting role helped the team with some stability. Right at the start of the year, he was named the starting fullback and was ready to lead the 3 more inexperienced running backs down the field. The season slowly as a whole due to the offense starting the year slowly, but the running game logged over 100 yards for the first 3 games. When opposing teams started to crowd the line of scrimmage, the run game went a little stagnant until the Pitt game. Needing a huge, time consuming drive in the second half, Jack helped lead Kordell Young down the field in a drive that would take up 5:50 and the better part of the 4th quarter. From then on, the running game was on a roll and logged over 130 yards for the final 4 games and 118 yard in the papajohn' Bowl.

But all that was not the best part of Jack's year. His receiving out of the backfield and out of motion sets really helped open up the offensive output. He logged 12 catches for 114 yards and 2 TDs on the year, but the timing of his production was what really helped the team. He helped RU get back into the Cincinnati game by catching a risky, high floating flea flicker for a TD from Kordell Young. He then went on to log a drive changing 19 yard reception against UConn, but Jack really saved his best for the final 4 games of the year. After logging 3 catches against Syracuse, Jack had one of the best circus catches for his second TD of the season in the South Florida game. It may have only been a 2 yard TD, but it showed the adjustment and amazing eye hand coordination he has to be able to spin, catch, and stay inbounds to put RU up 7 going into the half. He then followed that up with a 2 catch, 35 yard effort against Army and a 2 rush and 1 catch for 10 yard effort against Louisville. The best part of his Louisville game, however, was springing running back Jourdon Brooks for a huge run and blocking the way for a run game that logged 240 yards on the ground.

Saving his best for last, Jack had a great game in the papajohn' Bowl. He logged 1 rush for 1 yard and a second best 6 catches for 62 yards. The stats show Jack was a good part of the Rutgers offense that day, but the manor in which they were executed was even more important. Getting out to a slow first half, Rutgers was down 11 in the 3rd quarter and needed a spark. RU was moving the ball, but was stalling and having to punt around the 50 yard line on nearly each drive. Rutgers was looking for a big play on their first drive of the 2nd half and Jack delivered. He snuck out of the backfield to the middle of the field and made a 1 handed, twisting, stretched out, 20 yard catch that had Sportscenter written all over it. After the catch was reviewed and upheld, Rutgers was given the momentum it needed to nearly tie the game up by the end of the quarter. Equally as important, Jack was a key figure in Rutgers time draining drive (over 7 minutes) in the 4th quarter logging 3 catches for 23 yards, 2 of which were key receptions to get RU in position to make first downs. The game showed how Jack's abilities can help to stretch and widen the defense in order to create space for him and his fellow receivers.

So what could Rutgers fans expect from Jack Corcoran for the 2009 season?

His participation on the 2009 offense will be critical to Rutgers' success in both the passing and running game. He's still the most senior and experienced player in the backfield so his leadership will still be paramount on offense and in the backfield. His lead blocking will need to be, and should be, the final piece of blocking in springing "the Chimeric Trio" of Kordell Young (the snake), Joe Martinek (the lion), and Jourdon Brooks (the ram) for some big gains. He has the opportunity to lead block for a running game that could be Rutgers' most prolific running game in school history. Rutgers has never had this much quantitative talent in the backfield and Jack will need to keep up with running backs that potentially have fresh legs every down.

The biggest impact Jack could have will be in the passing game, however. With Rutgers having to replace a quarterback and looking toward Dom Natale (with 2 younger guys looking to chime in) to lead the team at the start of the year, Jack will be a big part in making sure the linebackers keep the center of the field open. In addition, his play making ability will also have to be recognized and could potentially suck a safety up as well which will open some deeper passes. If Rutgers can work the short and mid-range passing game effectively by widening the defense with Jack and one of "the Chimeric Trio" on passing downs, it will eventually free up other areas. Add that to establishing a running game and you have a defense that is going to bite on every head fake and play action pass. Then you can thrown in a good play action and hit the long ball to Tom Brown or one of the other talented receivers. Soon you have an offense that is accurate and keeping the defense on their heels, which is a recipe for touchdowns. Then you add on the experience he brings to the receiving end and it looks that much better.

Jack can also have a very big impact at being a leader and getting the quarterback to settle down so he can make plays. Jack has started more games than all of the running backs and quarterbacks on the team so his patience, work ethic, and reverence will need to show on the field. His play can help get his quarterback into position to make the plays, but his leadership can help that same quarterback to relax and get the ball from point A to point B. With there being so many questions around the position, it must be nice for Coach Schiano and the offensive coordinators, Coach Flood and Ciarocca, to know they have a senior in the backfield with poise, talent, and experience. If that can rub off onto the quarterbacks, Rutgers stands to be in a good position this season.

In closing, there are many questions on this Rutgers team. Who will take over as starting QB? Who can step in at receiver? Will the move to DE for Alex Silvestro work out? One question that many Rutgers fans don't have is: Will Jack Corcoran be a starter this year? One question that still remains to be fulfilled, however, is: Will Jack Corcoran become the Breakout Performer every Rutgers fan, coach, and student wants him to become?

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