Top 25: RB Joe Martinek (No. 4)

Joe Martinek ran for 967 yards and nine scores last season, but there is need for more production in the 2010 season. A red-shirt junior with good vision and the size to run with power, the 6-foot, 215-pound Martinek is No. 4 on's countdown of the Top 25 players for Rutgers heading into the 2010 season.

Yes, there is anticipation to see what freshmen running backs Casey Turner Jawan Jamison will do in training camp, and in the early part of the season as Rutgers eases into its conference schedule.

It doesn't mean junior running back Joe Martinek is a forgotten man, or that it is a given he will not be a chance to carry the bulk of the running game.

All it means is there should be strong competition for the position, and that is nothing but a positive for the Scarlet Knights.

Martinek knows the offense better, understands blocking schemes and can be a punishing running. He ran for nearly 1,000 yards as a sophomore, and if he performs well, it will make Rutgers' offense very good, which is why he is No. 4 on's countdown of the Top 25 most important players for the 2010 season.

Despite the discussions and reports (including here) about Turner and Jamison competing for the starting running back job, the Scarlet Knights are best off if the 6-foot, 215-pound Martinek runs well, and runs tough, which means knocking linebackers and defensive backs backward on tackles and getting those extra yards after contact.

Martinek possesses the leg strength and balance to do it, but was inconsistent with it in 2009. He understands how to run with a low pad level, but he must do a better job of getting to the hole quickly and running up the field rather than trying to bounce everything to the sideline.

When Martinek ran north-south in spring practice, he was a markedly better and more effective running back. He has the vision to do it, and the smarts to understand defenses.

And while Martinek is not the equal of Kordell Young when it comes to picking up the blitz, pass protection is not an issue.

It is easy to forget Martinek rushed for 967 yards and nine touchdowns last season. He also had 12 catches for 140 yards.

However, he is following two of the most popular and productive running backs in school history in Brian Leonard and Ray Rice, and he also had far less success in Big East play.

Martinek averaged 5.45 yards per carry and scored six touchdowns in six non-conference games but averaged only 4.0 yards per carry and scored three times in league games.

Part of the production issues were tied to an uneven offensive line, but the need is there for more production within the conference, especially since Rutgers plays at Pittsburgh, South Florida, Cincinnati and West Virginia, and controlling the ball and the clock will be paramount to success.

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