Rutgers football is a mess. As a fan of Illini football, I think I have suffered enough to identify football messes, and I feel safe in saying the Scarlet Knights are one. One of the main issues with bad football teams is that they do not have much talent. Again, another statement I feel I can make as a fan of Illini football.
So doing this installment of our Player to Watch series for Rutgers is difficult. Even if a player is actually talented, his light may be put under the proverbial bushel of the lack of talent surrounding him. For instance, take the entire Scarlet Knight receiving corps. They caught a total of one (1) touchdown last year, but was that due to lack of talented receivers or historically bad quarterback play?
And so, much like a Rutgers quarterback, I’ll check down to my safety net in junior running back Raheem Blackshear. Blackshear managed to lead the Scarlet Knights in rushing yards, which should be expected from a top running back. He also managed to lead Rutgers in receiving yards, which is not expected from a top running back. Granted, the yardage required to lead in both those categories wasn’t too gaudy (586 yards rushing, 367 yards receiving), but it was still impressive to receive honorable mention All-Big Ten in the coaches poll.
At 5-foot-9, 192 pounds, Blackshear relies more on shifty quickness than power. He did some of his best work against better defenses, like rushing for 102 yards against Penn State or gaining 200 yards from scrimmage on the road at Wisconsin. The ability is clearly there, and he should become even more effective with the offense opening up due to an upgrade at quarterback. It should be no surprise that he made the Paul Hornung Award Watchlist, which goes to the most versatile player in college football.
So if Rutgers is going to be competent this coming year, Raheem Blackshear will be a major reason why.