There are not a lot of offenses that still have use for a conventional fullback, but Rutgers is one of them. Newly hired offensive coordinator Ralph Friedgen is expected to use the fullback often both as a run blocker and offensive weapon. For the Scarlet Knights in 2014, the fullback position starts with senior Michael Burton, who brings an ideal Big Ten play-style.
Burton represents a best-case scenario for Rutgers at fullback in the new conference. Burton brings leadership and the work ethic of a former walk-on turned impact player. No, Burton does not have the same offensive skill set as Brian Leonard. He does, however, bring legitimate versatility. Burton can run block with the best of them, and does enough offensively to keep defenses honest. Burton can run, or even play running back in an emergency. Offensive coordinator Ron Prince used Burton well in the passing game last year. Ralph Friedgen should do the same this season. Burton has 53 career touches for 369 yards and six touchdowns at Rutgers.
It will likely be a battle between Kevin Marquez and Sam Bergen to back up Burton this season. Bergen held down the position last year before an injury, and Marquez did well in replacing him. Bergen is a converted linebacker and fifth-year senior out of East Stroudsburg (Pa.). Marquez walked on at Rutgers after a strong career at Egg Harbor (N.J.). Bergen has the experience edge, and Marquez brings a more versatile look to the position. Walk-on Lloyd Terry has a chance to earn backup action as well.
Jacob Kraut signed on at Rutgers to be the heir to Michael Burton’s role in the offense. Kraut moves well for a 250-pounder, and can use year one to learn from Burton while building his body. Rutgers recruited Kraut to be a bruiser in the Big Ten. Red-shirt freshman Devan Carter will also get the chance to contribute at fullback. Carter moved back to running back in spring because of injuries, but can easily flip back to fullback based on need.
Rutgers is one of the few schools in the country that truly embraces the fullback position. That is unlikely to change with the talent level at the position currently within the program. Burton as a senior should be the best in a Rutgers uniform since Leonard’s senior year. It also gives Kraut the chance to develop and retrieve the torch next spring as the future fullback in the Big Ten.