Raheem Blackshear

Tim May
[Bradley Leeb/The Associated Press]

If Rutgers is to make a real game of it with Ohio State on Saturday for the first time since the Scarlet Knights joined the Big Ten in 2014, Raheem Blackshear will have to play a major role.

There is no doubting the sophomore all-purpose back’s value to the Rutgers offense and special teams, third-year coach Chris Ash said.

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“He’s very quick, he’s elusive, he’s a guy that can make a lot of things happen for us,” Ash said. “Not much different — I don’t want to make the same comparison, but not a lot different than what Curtis Samuel was to Ohio State’s offense a couple years ago.

“He could be in the backfield, he could be at wideout, he can return punts, he can return kicks. That’s the type of player he is for us. And we’re going to lean on him to do a lot of things for us.”

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The Scarlet Knights leaned on him when needed to build a cushion in a win over Texas State last week. The 5-foot-9, 192-pound Blackshear rushed 12 times for 62 yards and a touchdown, caught seven passes for 56 yards and a TD, and returned two kickoffs for 33 yards before taking a seat early.

Just his catches alone — his total of seven tied his 11-game total of last season — shows what new offensive coordinator John McNulty has in store for Blackshear.

“I keep saying, ‘He’s our best player’,” McNulty told “I guess people read that and go, oh, they’re trying to get him the ball 20 times a game. But if they didn’t think that, we’d be doing something wrong. I think we would be doing a disservice to all of us.”

For an offense that struggled to find consistency and a viable threat the first two seasons under Ash, the rise of Blackshear could be coming at the right time. And McNulty seems as impressed with Blackshear’s contagious enthusiasm as he is with his game.

“He’s a great kid, he’s loves football,” McNulty said. “Every day he’s up and flying around, and the results show in his play.”