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Rutgers Football RBs ready to run the rock

The Rutgers football team returns four running backs who saw action last fall in Samuel Brown, Kyle Monangai, Aaron Young, and Al-Shadee Salaam.

Monangai led the team with 109 carries and 445 yards with a pair of touchdowns on the ground. On 86 carries, Brown tallied 374 rushing yards while also scoring a team-best three rushing scores as a freshman. Young was limited to four games and had just 11 attempts for 38 yards while catching a touchdown. Salaam played in all 12 games (one start) and had 57 carries for 210 yards with two scores. He caught nine passes as well.


This spring, the Scarlet Knights also brought in freshman Ja’shon Benjamin, and there are also a handful of walk-ons on the team. The room is deep and full of experience other than Benjamin.

“We have a good mixture of guys -- veterans and ones who are still figuring it out,” running backs coach Damiere Shaw said on Tuesday. Shaw switched over from coaching the wide receivers last year. “They’re working hard. They’ve been a pleasure to coach. It’s a competition, but they all help each other. Iron sharpens iron.

“The transition has been great coaching these guys. Coach (Kirk) Ciarrocca has been huge given his running backs experience. I love coaching these guys.”

Rutgers RB Sam Brown
Rutgers RB Sam Brown (Rutgers Athletics)

Rutgers is a bit banged up right now from the sound of it. That includes Brown who came on in the middle of the season. Brown had 101 yards on 28 carries with a go-ahead coachdown in the win over Indiana that coincided with his first career start. He also had 63 yards on 16 attempts against Nebraska, 79 yards on 15 carries against Iowa, and had 66 yards on 12 carries with two scores against Wagner.

“I’m pleased with everyone in the room who is practicing. They are competing at a high level,” Shaw said. “They have different skill sets, so we’ll look to utilize everybody.”

Brown also showed he can catch the ball with four grabs, too, before a foot injury got him. It is unclear when he’ll be back, but the thinking is he’ll be OK for training camp.

“He’s been great. He’s a coach’s dream as far as the work he puts in and the willingness to learn,” Shaw said. “He’s committed and doing everything he can to get back. It’s up to the trainers and doctors for when he’ll be back, but he’s doing everything he can mentally to stay up to speed.”

Head coach Greg Schiano mentioned this past Saturday after the scrimmage that Young is being aggressive on the field with his runs. Young dealt with injuries last season and all the way back to the 2021 season as well, but it looks like he has finally shaken them off.

“A ton of physicality. He’s running like his hair’s on fire and he’s playing violently,” Shaw said. “Talking about helping each other out, he’s been a leader in the room. Off the field he’s helping develop the younger guys. He’s running the ball hard right now.”

Salaam is a player who can get his touches because of his speed.

“He’s doing really well. He’s a young man who is very talented,” Shaw said. “He’s made strides and is taking care of his body and is watching film on his own. He’s also learned how to really practice and he’s pushing himself. He’s done really well.”

Rutgers has a lot of mouths to feed, but if you look at previous stops for the offensive coordinator, Ciarrocca, he is one to run the ball often. If the offensive line can progress, any if not all of these running backs could find production.

“Iron sharpens iron, and the cream will rise to the top,” Shaw said. “We have a ton of guys, and you know coach Ciarrocca, he’s going to run the rock. We’ll find a role for everybody, and as guys get healthy and progress, we'll see what happens by the season. I’m happy with the progress.”

Follow Chris Nalwasky on Twitter @ChrisNalwasky.


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