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Blackshear selected to PFF Big Ten Team of Week

Just several days after the Rutgers football team broke its 11-game losing streak in a 28-point victory over UMass, junior running back Raheem Blackshear was selected to the Pro Football Focus (PFF) Big Ten Team of the Week.

PFF specializes in analyzing the NFL and FBS collegiate football schools' performances across the nation.

Blackshear earned the national honor after catching nine receptions for 126 yards and one touchdown last Friday evening against the Minutemen (0-1).

Last season's rushing and receiving leader, Blackshear has established himself as a dual-threat scatback in the Scarlet Knights' (1-0) offense. As a freshman, he was thrust into the two-way position, tallying 238 rushing yards and five touchdowns on the ground in 2017.

Now a team captain and the oldest in the backfield, Blackshear brings a wealth of experience at the scatback position. With sophomore Isaih Pacheco splitting the carries with Blackshear, offensive coordinator John McNulty has options at a hybrid running back-wide receiver position.

"I'm the versatile player on the team. I can play running back or receiver," Blackshear said. "Whatever McNulty needs me to play I'm just going to do it."

This season already has brought about a different offensive dynamic. With graduate student quarterback McLane Carter selected as the starter, the running backs and receivers have had the offseason and practice weeks leading up to last Friday evening to work with the new man behind center.

Carter's left-handed throws have taken sometime for the running backs and receivers to grow accustomed to. But, Blackshear has made it a priority to work with his new quarterback, especially after practice.

"The chemistry with McLane is really good. We work after practice a lot," Blackshear said about the Texas Tech transfer. "We work on our routes."

This season is also the first time since head coach Chris Ash took over the helm that Rutgers' backfield features no transfers. A returning backfield is key to the success of this offense.

The combination of Blackshear and Pacheco has worked wonders for the Knights. Together, they totaled 1,137 yards in 2018. Blackshear alone rushed for 551 yards while alumnus and Boston College transfer Jonathan Hilliman had 337 yards in his only season on the Banks.

A consistent backfield including Pacheco and Blackshear threatens opposing defenses and this Saturday's kickoff at Iowa, a hostile environment, should serve as an early test for the two. The Hawkeyes' (1-0) rushing defense was 22nd nationally last season. Led by a veteran linebacking group including former Rutgers defensive coordinator Jay Niemann's son Nick Niemann, Pacheco and Blackshear should have their work out out for them.

For updates on the Rutgers football team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.

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