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Future of Rutgers football 2024: Running backs

Senior running back Kyle Monangai led the Big Ten in rushing yards last season and will play a monumental role in the Rutgers football team's offense in 2024. – Photo by Evan Leong

It is officially springtime, and spring training for the Rutgers football team is underway. In the second edition of Future of Rutgers Football, The Daily Targum previews the 2024 running back room.

The running back group was one of the strongest among the Rutgers football team last season and is arguably the Scarlet Knights' deepest group. It features a solid mix of veteran talent and young players looking to break through. Under offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca’s run-heavy game plan, having several options to take up carries is crucial.

Senior running back Kyle Monangai, the reigning rushing leader in the Big Ten, leads the running back room. Last season, Monangai rushed for 1,262 yards and eight touchdowns, becoming the first Rutgers player to run for more than 1,000 yards in a season since Jawan Jamison in 2012.

Monangai rushed for more than 100 yards seven times, including his 159-yard performance against Ohio State, who was ranked No. 1 in the country at the time. In the Pinstripe Bowl win over Miami, Monangai rushed for 163 yards and also scored a touchdown.

The 5-foot-9, 210-pound running back will once again lead a Knights rushing attack that ran for the fifth-most yards in the Big Ten last season, largely due to his endurance and agility running between the tackles. In several Rutgers wins last season, he was counted on in the fourth quarter to take time off the clock and keep the ball in the Knights’ possession. His strongest attribute is keeping his legs churning, even through contact, grinding out tough yards on almost every carry.

Monangai chose to return to Rutgers for his last season of college eligibility and will play a pivotal role in Ciarrocca’s offensive attack.

Junior running back Samuel Brown V will likely play alongside Monangai. Last season, Brown struggled with a lingering foot injury that ended his freshman season in 2022. He ranked third on the Knights with 216 rushing yards and two touchdowns, but his usage was inconsistent, likely due to the effects of his injury. Brown appeared to have his burst and decisiveness back in the bowl win over the Hurricanes, making many fans excited for his future.

Even if Brown serves as the second running back behind Monangai again, he can still see his role in the offense increase. If senior quarterback Athan Kaliakmanis wins the starting job, Brown will likely still get carries to make up for the designed runs given to senior quarterback Gavin Wimsatt last year.

Brown can have an increased role while taking some tread off Monangai and lessening the pressure on Kaliakmanis. If Wimsatt gets the role, a fully-recovered Brown will still have room to get on the field, which would not put as much rushing pressure on Monangai or Wimsatt.

Behind the top two of the pecking order is sophomore running back Ja’shon Benjamin, who hails from Pahokee, Florida. Benjamin played in nine games and made an impact right from the get-go. He led the team in carries in the season-opening win over Northwestern and followed that with a highlight-reel touchdown in the next game against Temple. He finished the season with 172 yards rushing while also catching four passes for 54 yards.

Benjamin, like Monangai, is 5-foot-9 but uses great speed and elusiveness as a weapon out of the backfield. While he will likely stay behind Monangai and Brown in the group, he will provide great depth as a change-of-pace back, especially when targeted in the passing game.

Rutgers also recruited two running backs in the 2024 recruiting class. The two may not have an impact this year, but they will certainly lead the room in the future.

Freshman running back Gabe Winowich, a four-star recruit is the highest-rated running back of the freshmen. Winowich is a big and explosive back with plenty of versatility but will likely have to wait his turn with the veterans in front of him.

The other new addition, freshman running back Edd Guerrier, will also likely see limited action this year but will have opportunities to break out. Hailing from Port Charlotte, Florida, Guerrier is another smaller running back, weighing in at just 5-foot-7, but has agility and power. When he committed to the Knights in August, Guerrier mentioned Monangai, as the two share a similar build and skill set.

"I’ve always wanted to play Power 5 football and a running back, (Kyle Monangai), I grew up watching plays there," Guerrier said. "I know that they’re a great school, and they have great education, and I can’t wait to watch their games."

The final two running backs on the roster, junior running back Donovan Delaney Jr. and senior running back Jordan Kinsler, did not see game action last season but provided valuable depth to the group.

Rutgers’ run-heavy offense means the running back room needs many difference-makers, and the Knights’ group is no different. There will likely be many contributors to replicate last season’s success, as Monangai will lead the group and follow up his star-studded 2023 campaign in his final season on the Banks.

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

To view more of Alec Crouthamel's work, follow @aleccr12 on X.

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