PISCATAWAY – As soon as Ray Rice left for the NFL after carrying Rutgers to national prominence, the Scarlet Knights' faithful have been looking for the guy to fill the void that Rice’s 4,926 yards and 49 touchdowns left.
First it was Kordell Young, but three knee surgeries kept him from reaching his full potential. Then it was four-star recruit De’Antwan Williams, whose talent was overshadowed by his inability to grasp the playbook before leaving the program earlier this season. Most recently it was the state’s top recruit from the 2011 class, Savon Huggins, who struggled to adjust to the collegiate level before injuring his knee against USF and missing the remainder of the regular season.
The guy who juked that label is the back who looks the most like Rice from a physical standpoint. Coming out of high school at 5' 8'', 185 pounds, Jawan Jamison mirrored Rice’s 5' 9'', 188 pound frame.
Up to 198 pounds, Jamison is now mirroring Rice in other ways. After a 200 yard performance against the then No. 2 ranked rushing defense in the country in Cincinnati, Jamison became the first freshman to run for over 200-yards in a game since Rice.
With 253 more yards, he can also become the second freshman to run for 1,000 yards. The first? Ray Rice.
“It means a lot,” Jamison said of being mentioned in the same breath as Rice. “As everyone knows he was the man here. I just can’t wait to try and do it [gain 1,000 yards]. For me and my o-line to be able to do that speaks volumes for our program.”
And the Jacksonville, FL native sees more correlations between himself and Rice than just his body type and potential stats. Jamison thinks he has a parallel running style to the All-Pro back.
Said Jamison: “I feel like our explosion – our burst and our explosion – and the way we run the ball. That’s our similarities.”
However, head coach Greg Schiano isn’t quite ready to put the redshirt freshman in Rice’s class.
“It's easy to draw similarities when you have a shorter built guy,” Schiano said. “But I'm not ready to put many people in Ray Rice's category. That guy is a special, special player.”
Still, every high profile running back that’s come to Rutgers since 2007 has had the burden on living up to the expectations Rice left.
The label of “the next Ray Rice” has gone from player to player with none coming close to playing up to par with the best running back in school history.
“I don't ever talk about the next Ray Rice because I don't think it's fair. I don't think it's fair at all,” Schiano said. “Those are big shoes to fill.”
But it’s not something Jamsion is shying away from.
“I would like to be the next Ray Rice, but also I just want to be myself and give my team the best chance to win,” Jamison said.
It remains to be seen over the next couple of seasons if Jamison can finally do what Rutgers fans have been waiting to see. A workhorse running back a la Rice.
And quite frankly, there's probably never going to be a next Ray Rice. He was just that good.
But with a win against UConn on Saturday, Jamsion will have already done one thing Rice never could: Win at least a share of the Big East title.