Rutgers Scarlet Knights Must Find Running Back Depth in Spring Practice

Frank Victores – USA TODAY Sports

The Rutgers Scarlet Knights have a major hole to fill in their backfield following the departure of Jawan Jamison to the NFL. Jamison became just the seventh player in the 144-year history of Rutgers football to rush for 1,000 yards in a season in 2012, so his impact on the program is unquestionable. Where will the rushing offense come from in 2013? Rutgers has a couple of options.

The leader to get the lion’s share of the carries next season is Savon Huggins who finished second on the team in rushing in 2012. The junior finished the year with 119 carries for 410 yards and two touchdowns. Huggins flashed the ability to be a work horse in a spot start for an ailing Jamison last season when he rumbled for 179 yards on 41 carries against the Cincinnati Bearcats.

Outside of that one game, however, Huggins was inconsistent and failed to make something happen when holes weren’t readily opened for him. He got double-digit carries in just three other games, averaging 3.8 yards per carry on 12 attempts against the Tulane Green Wave, 3.3 yards per carry on 10 attempts against the Army Black Knights and finished the year averaging just 2.7 yards per attempt on 18 carries against the Virginia Tech Hokies in the Russell Athletic Bowl.

Huggins came to Rutgers as one of the most highly touted recruits in the program’s history but has spent two years in a backup role after injuries hampered his freshman season and he lost out on the starting job to Jamison last season. Head coach Kyle Flood will give Huggins every opportunity to earn the starter’s job this spring and voiced confidence in his ability to be the workhorse in the Rutgers’ backfield.

“He’s earned that right.

“We all saw what Savon can do in the Cincinnati game when given those types of reps, and I think he’s the type of running back — because he’s a powerful, strong runner — he’s the kind of guy who gets better as the game goes on.”

Even if Huggins emerges as the clear No. 1 back this spring, as Flood predicts he will, Rutgers will still be looking to add depth behind him. Last season, Huggins and Jamison combined for 374 of the team’s 431 total carries, which didn’t leave a lot of game reps for the rest of the depth chart. Paul James (five carries, 22 yards) and Ben Martin (10 carries, 48 yards) are the only other running backs on the roster who got carries last season.

Flood describes James as a “very strong runner,” and he runs with good vision. He will likely be competing with redshirt freshman Desmon Peoples, who is described as “extremely hard to tackle,” for the primary backup role. Early enrollee Dontea Ayres will also have an opportunity to compete this spring.

It will be big shoes to fill for whoever carries the ball for Rutgers next season, but the Scarlet Knights need to find their guy this spring if they have any hope of success in 2013.

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