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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Rutgers should miss Paul James' yards-after-contact average

In Rutgers' three games against FBS opponents, Savon Huggins, pictured, is averaging 3 yards less after contact than starter Paul James. (AP Photo) 

By Tyler Barto
Twitter: @Tyler_Barto

With Paul James out until at least after Rutgers' Oct. 10 matchup at No. 7 Louisville, the Scarlet Knights aren't only losing the nation's second-leading rusher. They're also saying goodbye to yardage they haven't had to account for.

I looked back at Rutgers' three games against FBS opponents, evaluating James' yards after contact, which each school charts. My results are unofficial*.

In the three-game span, James averaged 4.29 yards after initial contact, reaching a near-identical head at about 5.05 against both Fresno State and Eastern Michigan. The number dropped to 2.41 on 17 carries Saturday against Arkansas.

James was hit in the backfield on 13 of those runs, or about 22 percent of his total carries. First contact came at the line of scrimmage a total of 14 times. He managed more than 10 yards after contact on four separate plays.

RELATED: Formations, personnel that coordinator Ron Prince likes

Savon Huggins, James' heir during his absence with a lower-leg injury, averaged 1.16 yards after contact during the same period of time — on 40 fewer carries. He was hit behind the line of scrimmage at nearly the same rate — 26.3 percent — while finding contact at the line of scrimmage 52.6 percent of the time.

On three successive runs late in the game against Arkansas, Huggins managed 2 yards each after contact on obvious rushing downs. Rushes of 7 and 11 yards, respectively, highlighted the spurt.

What does that mean for Rutgers' offense?

It might be less efficient on the ground, taking more plays to replicate the same amount of production. It could also rotate more to compensate — head coach Kyle Flood said he will consider using redshirt freshman Desmon Peoples and true freshman Justin Goodwin in spot duty.

In either case, Rutgers' plan should be clear as its bye week turns into preparation for SMU.

*One of James' 21 carries Sept. 14 against Eastern Michigan is unaccounted for.

IN PRINT: Kyle Flood, Rutgers begin contingency plan with Paul James out

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