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Running Backs Lead The Way For Rutgers’ Offense

In a new two-part feature here at Double G Sports, we will take a look at the top position group on both offense and defense. In a tight race between the wide receivers and the backfield, today we start on offense where the team’s stable of running backs lead the way.

Rutgers running back Paul James (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Rutgers running back Paul James (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

When Paul James went down to injury in late September in a game at Navy, it opened the door for backups Desmon Peoples and Justin Goodwin. Once Big Ten play started heating up, the backs proved ineffective, and opened the door for freshmen backs Josh Hicks and Robert Martin. Rutgers enters the 2015 campaign with a whole stable of running backs, but will be running behind a line with three new starters. In addition, four-year starting quarterback Gary Nova is gone, and the team will have someone new under center in either redshirt sophomores Hayden Rettig or Chris Laviano. The team will have to rely on their running backs for production.

Head coach Kyle Flood said he expects the redshirt-senior James to be healthy come training camp starting on Aug. 9, but James is injury prone and will likely take it easy over the summer. The depth at running back should allow James to ease into the season while the likes of Martin, Hicks, Peoples, and Goodwin take their share of carries.

James has the ability to power through defenders, while also showing extra burst out in the open field with his speed. He is also a pass-catching threat out of the backfield where he took a 69-yard swing pass to the house against Howard. The Glassboro, N.J. native led the nation with six touchdowns through the first two games of the season. As a sophomore in 2013, the 6-0, 205-pound back was a First-Team American Athletic Conference selection after running for 881 yards and nine touchdowns.

Peoples ended up finishing the season as the team’s leading rusher with 447 yards, but he and Goodwin appear to be behind James and the pair of freshmen on the depth chart. The Archbishop Wood product is small, shifty runner.

Goodwin totaled 521 yards on the ground as a freshman in 2013, and racked up 328 a season ago. Goodwin is an elusive back, but can also move to defense at corner if the team needs, where he started the first game of the season at Washington State.

Martin and Hicks exploded in the last home game of the inaugural Big Ten season against Indiana, and carried it over to the Scarlet Knight’s Quick Lane Bowl Victory. Hicks won MVP in Detroit after he rushed for 202 yards and a score on 19 carries. Martin reached the 100-yard century mark on 19 carries as well in the contest. Martin led the team with seven trips to the endzone.

Waiting in the wings is incoming freshman Charles Snorweah from Pennsylvania. The speedy back will likely redshirt with the slew of backs ahead of him. In addition, he had off season shoulder surgery. Down the road however, Snorweah can earn playing time in a year or two after running for 2,793 yards and 40 touchdowns as a senior.

The depth and quality of the backs is something Flood and co. have to be happy with. If James is healthy and continues to be the same electric back, if Martin and Hicks can be productive in their backup carries, and if Peoples and Goodwin come in and do their job if necessary, the Rutgers’ running back meeting room could be the best in the country.

Stay with Double G Sports for all your Rutgers football updates and articles.



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