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Rutgers football position preview: Running backs

Junior running back Isaih Pacheco finished with 729 rushing yards and seven touchdowns last season. – Photo by null

The Rutgers football team cycled through several quarterbacks until it settled on sophomore quarterback Johnny Langan during the 2019 campaign, but it wasn’t the same story when it came to running back.

Last season, the leader in every rushing category for the Scarlet Knights was junior running back Isaih Pacheco. He rushed for 729 yards and seven touchdowns, four of which came in the season opener against UMass. His hat trick plus one performance was tied for most touchdowns scored by a Big Ten running back in a single game in 2019. Pacheco scored two more against Liberty, and his final score came against Ohio State. 

Out of Pacheco’s seven touchdowns, four came from within the 10-yard line. His running style was on display on his longest touchdown run of the season. Pacheco shimmied through a hole on the left side of the offensive line, then outran two defenders on his way to the end-zone, capping a 57-yard rush in the season opener. 

Pacheco and Langan were tasked with handling most of the Rutgers rushing workload, as they had 169 and 134 attempts, respectively. Langan tallied 391 yards and three touchdowns. Behind them was sophomore running back Kay’Ron Adams. In nine games, Adams was given the ball 48 times and he scored once on his way to 161 yards.

Another running back is sophomore Aaron Young. Playing in all 12 games last year, Aaron Young led the Knights with 823 all-purpose yards. Approximately 557 of those came from kick and punt returns, good for fourth in the Big Ten.

Aaron Young was the go-to on kickoffs, fielding 26 out of a possible 36 and averaging 21.15 yards per return. Aaron Young returned only two punts as his older brother, junior defensive back Avery Young, handled the other 11. 

Out of the current Rutgers running backs, Aaron Young produced the most when it came to receiving. He reeled in 15 passes for 113 yards alongside his 153 rushing yards on 43 attempts.

Ahead of him, when it came to receiving running backs, was Raheem Blackshear, who transferred to Virginia Tech. Blackshear posted 88 rushing yards and 310 receiving yards for the Knights. Both of Blackshear’s touchdowns came through the air. 

The other transfer out of the backfield is Elijah Barnwell, who had 10 carries for 81 yards and two tackles on special teams. Barnwell will suit up for Maine. 

The newest addition to Rutgers’ backfield is true freshman running back Kyle Monangai. In his senior season at Don Bosco Prep, Monangai’s success came on both the ground and in the air. He rushed for 1,040 yards and 11 scores and tacked on 449 receiving yards and six touchdowns. 

Another addition to the Knights is running backs coach Augie Hoffmann. The former offensive lineman headed the football team at St. Joseph Regional for six years, with four state championships appearances and two victories. Hoffmann is joined on the offensive coaching staff by offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Sean Gleeson. 

While at Oklahoma State, Gleeson ran the Air Raid Offense that features four wide receivers and one running back, which traditionally emphasizes the passing game. During Gleeson’s lone year with the Cowboys, their starting running back was Chuba Hubbard.

In 2019, Hubbard was given the ball 328 times, which he turned into 2,094 yards and 21 touchdowns, up from 740 yards and seven touchdowns the year before. Hubbard also captured the Big 12 Player of the Year award. 

Out of Rutgers’ 18 touchdowns last year, 11 came on the ground and each of the three student-athletes responsible for those scores remains on the Knights’ roster for the 2020 season.

For updates on the Rutgers football team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.

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