Through the 2005 and 2006 college football seasons, both Bengals running back Brian Leonard and Ravens running back Ray Rice were in the backfield for the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. Rice managed 1,120 in '05 and then 1,794 in '06 on the ground and Leonard, who became famous for the Leonard Leap, added 740 yards on the ground and 568 receiving in '05 and 423 on the ground and 294 in the air in '06.
The two running backs led the Scarlet Knights to a 7-4 record in '05 and an 11-2 record in '06. Leonard was selected in the second round of the 2007 NFL draft by the St. Louis Rams and Rice was picked up by the Ravens in the second round of the 2008 draft.
Of course, the two running backs didn't face each other until the 2009 season when Leonard was traded to the Bengals in exchange for defensive tackle Orien Harris. Leonard hasn't been a featured back in Cincinnati but he has done more than excel in his role as the team's third-down back and Rice has been one of the best running backs in the league in Baltimore.
Even though they haven't played on the same team since the end of the 2006 college football season, Leonard is still very familiar with Rice.
"One of the best running backs I’ve ever been around. He’s low to the ground, he’s got great balance, great vision. You’ve got to wrap him up because he’s going to break the first tackle if you don’t. Since I’ve been watching him in the NFI, I never realized he catches it as well as he does. That was my job in college, but he has great hands on third down and he pushes the ball downfield.
"Other than that, he’s the same he was in college. I actually first saw him in the Governor’s Cup, New York vs. New Jersey, and he was impressive then. I think he’s about 205, 210 pounds (actually 212) and he’s got deceiving speed. He makes you miss. Always makes the first guy miss. He’s not as fast as you think and as strong as you think."
It isn't like the Bengals can't stop him though. Rice has never had a 100-yard game against Cincinnati's defense. The Bengals defensive line is big and fast enough to stop Rice from running up the middle and outside linebackers like Thomas Howard, Manny Lawson and Brandon Johnson are quick enough to stop him on the outside and keep him from hurting them in the passing game.
Leonard went on to say:
"We’ve got some fast, big linebackers than can cover. I went againstThomas Howard when he was in Oakland and he shut me down on a couple of my routes. He can move very well. And Brandon can, too. He ran like a 4.3, 4.4 40 at the combine. Manny has those long arms. If he gets those hands on you, you’re not going anywhere. You’ve got to get past him five yards."
One of the keys to a Bengals victory on Sunday will be to stop Rice and pressure Joe Flacco, and there isn't a better person to prepare the Bengals defense for Rice than Leonard.