Countdown to Kickoff: Running Backs

It is less than five days until Rutgers opens the season Thursday against Norfolk State on Thursday at Rutgers Stadium. In previewing the Scarlet Knights on a positiion--by position basis,'s "Countdown to Kickoff" continues with a look at the running backs. We give you the good, the bad and the unknown, as well as a confidence meter for the position.

In less than five days, Rutgers begins the 2010 season with a contest against Football Championship Subdivision Norfolk State.
Although the true test doesn't come until game time, some things gained clarity during training camp.
In getting everyone ready for the Thursday kickoff (7:30 p.m.) at Rutgers Stadium, is running its "Countdown to Kickoff" series, and today's in-depth position look stops on the running backs.

Relevant players: Joe Martinek (R-Jr.), Kordell Young (R-Sr.), Casey Turner (Fr.), Jordan Thomas (Fr.), D'Antwan Williams (So.)

The Good: Rutgers has versatility for the first time in a few years. It isn't the Brian Leonard/Ray Rice type the Scarlet Knights enjoyed a few years back, but there is diversity.
Martinek can be the burly, move-the-chains, wear-the-defense-down type of back, and you know he will protect the ball and run hard. He rushed for 967 yards and nine scores in 2009 and caught 12 passes for 140 yards.
Thomas offers speed and the ability to get to the edge, and Turner can run with power and also get to the edge.
Young offers the consummate third-down back. He is excellent at picking up the blitz, can catch the ball and get yards after the catch and is a nice change-of-pace running if the Scarlet Knights decide to give him a carry or two.
And when it comes to the running game, receivers Mohamed Sanu and Jeremy Deering also will be factors in the "Wildcat" formation. Sanu ran for 346 yards and five touchdowns last season, and Deering is expected to factor into the "Wildcat" package.

The Bad: There is talent and a little more depth than last season at running back, but there are still concerns because of injury and inexperience. Martinek is a proven runner, but Turner and Thomas exemplify the youth of the position. Both are true freshmen, and with the good also comes inexperience.
Running is only half the battle for the backs, as they must know protection packages to keep the pressure off the quarterback. Thomas and Turner were not asked to block often in high school.
Young is as good as there is in the Big East at pass-protection, and he is also a team leader. However, his history of knee ailments kept him out of many training camp drills, and it remains to be seen whether his knees can hold up for a season.
There was also the loss of depth because of so many injuries to Rutgers' receivers, which caused Mason Robinson to shift to receiver last week.

The Unknown: Can Thomas withstand the pounding of a college running back as a freshman? When will Turner return from his injury to his mid-section that has kept him out of practice for a few weeks.
Martinek is known to be able to protect the ball, but what about everyone else? If there is one thing impossible to tolerate, it's fumbles.
Also, Rutgers made a move that could signify a move away from using a fullback and instead using a tight end in the backfield when Edmund Laryea was moved to linebacker. How will that work into the running game.

Confidence meter: Scale of 1 to 10: 7.5

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