Looking ahead: RBs

ScarletReport.com begins a position-by-position look at the 2010 Rutgers football team, and it begins with breakdown of the running backs. Joe Martinek returns for his red-shirt junior season after rushing for a career-high 967 yards and nine touchdowns, but the coaching staff is looking for more escapability from the running backs.

Rutgers' sporadic running game nearly produced a 1,000-yard rusher in Joe Martinek, but the inability to gain yards with consistency was a bugaboo for the offense throughout the season. So much so Scarlet Knights coach Greg Schiano said the running game needs a back who can get yards beyond what is blocked.

Moving forward, it puts the onus on one of a handful of running backs to make the move, unless the Scarlet Knights bring in a freshman capable of overtaking those already in the program.

Martinek, who will be a red-shirt junior, was Rutgers' leading rusher with 967 yards on 206 carries. He scored nine touchdowns, and at times showed elusiveness in avoiding tacklers behind the line of scrimmage.

Martinek should be a between-the-tackles runner, but too often he looked to bounce plays outside. Rather than pick up an extra yard or two, he would try for the big play.

An intriguing player is De'Antwan Williams, who played sparingly as a true freshman. He carried 44 times for 235 yards and a touchdown, but most of that came against Football Championship Subdivision schools Howard and Texas Southern.

Williams has acceleration, but it remains to be seen whether he has elite speed, whether he can handle a heavy workload and if he can get to the edge to stretch a defense in the running game. Blocking is also an unknown as Williams, at times, struggled in practice making the transition to the college game.

Whether red-shirt junior Jourdan Brooks remains part of the running back situation or is shifted to fullback remains to be seen, but his status among the running backs fell quickly. Brooks and Martinek battled to be the starter early in the season, but by season's end he wasn't a regular part of the offense.

He rushed for 282 yards and four touchdowns on 60 carries, but most of that came in the first month of the season. He is supposed to be a bruising runner, but after being stopped on successive runs near the goal line at Maryland in late September, his playing time faded fast.

His time took even a bigger hit when receiver Mohamed Sanu began running the "Wildcat" package effectively. Sanu added a dimension to the running game with his strength, vision and speed. He ran for 346 yards and five touchdowns on 62 carries.

A move to fullback for Brooks may be in needed since the Scarlet Knights are thin there. Red-shirt freshman Robert Joseph is the most likely candidate to step in immediately.

Wildcards in the situation is the health of red-shirt junior Mason Robinson and senior Kordell Young.

Young's ailing knees limited his availability early the season, but he is Rutgers' most trusted pass blocker and pass catcher out of the backfield, and could be an important third-down back.

However, he underwent his second major knee surgery at the end of the season. While he is expected to be available when training camp begins in August, how much he will be able to contribute remains a question.

Robinson, like Young, is a shifty runner who could add a different dimension to the running game, but two things have to happen. First, Robinson must recover sufficiently from reconstructive knee surgery after an early-season injury. Second, he must be moved back to running back from receiver.

Whether a freshman can factor into the equation is another issue, but the Scarlet Knights are trying to improve their depth by signing a pair of running backs in the 2010 class.

Casey Turner of Edward H. White High (Jacksonville) gave a non-binding oral commitment to play for Rutgers, and the Scarlet Knights are also pursuing two other backs with vigor.

Mustafa Greene of Irmo High (Columbia, S.C.) is tops on the list, but he is considering North Carolina State as well as Auburn and Alabama. Beyond Greene is Jawan Jamison of The Bolles Schools (Jacksonville), who does not yet have an offer but will make an official visit to Rutgers the weekend of Jan. 22-24.

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