Blackshear first caught our eye in Rutgers blowout win against Morgan State. The freshman amassed 132 total yards from scrimmage on 16 touches, with two scores on the day. A nagging thigh injury kept the back limited for the next two games against Ohio State and Nebraska, but once again gave fans a reason to watch in his return against Illinois with another big day (87 yards on six carries, one rushing touchdown).
The back finished the year with 604 total yards and five touchdowns, three on the ground and two in the passing game. Throughout the 2016 year, Blackshear was able to remain relevant with his consistency in the rushing and passing game. The freshman was even able to earn high praise from hard-nosed offensive coordinator Jerry Kill, who said “I think he’ll be one of the best that plays here.” Blackshear has shown his ability to cut up a defense on the ground and through the air, and if healthy, should see a large share of the offense next year.
Freshman quarterback Johnathan Lewis is the present you found before Christmas, and have to endure the anticipation of when you can unwrap it. At 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds, there was never any doubt that Lewis had the measurements to hold a strong pocket presence.
When you add his ability to scramble and turn broken plays into big gains with his legs, he becomes a threat that defenses will have to strongly prepare for. It was a freshman frenzy against Morgan State this year, as the quarterback exploded for four rushing touchdowns and one through the air.
The youth is still easy to see though, Lewis clearly needs more in game reps to enhance his decision making. Given they came against talented defenses in blowout losses, the young quarterback threw two interceptions against both Michigan State and Ohio State in games he saw less than 20 pass attempts. As I said before, the more reps fall upon Lewis, the better his decision making will become. Back in September he was third on the depth chart behind Bolin and Rescigno, but finished the year seeing a decent amount of action. If this confidence from the coaching staff continues, expect to see Johnathan Lewis start turning heads.