Huggins looks to flourish as starting RB
Savon Huggins spent a large portion of last season the same way he did the healthy portion of his freshman campaign — waiting behind Jawan Jamison.
Huggins finally received his opportunity Nov. 17 against Cincinnati, following Jamison’s right ankle injury.
He tied Jamison’s Rutgers football team record with 41 carries and earned a career high 179 rushing yards — a season high for the Scarlet Knights.
Once Jamison recovered, the two split reps for the remainder of the season.
This year is a different story.
Following last season, Jamison announced he would forgo his final two seasons of eligibility to enter this year’s NFL draft.
As soon as he did, head coach Kyle Flood put his vote of confidence on Huggins.
“He believes in me — he trusts in my abilities, and he knows what I can do,” Huggins said. “Now, it’s my turn to just go out there and prove it to myself. I know what I can do. [I just have to] go out there and do it.”
Being handed the starting role immediately, Huggins said, also comes with its own risks.
He said there is a temptation to become complacent, and he has to work to avoid that.
Living up to his personal expectations will require the effort and strength he showed against Cincinnati all season — something he has not needed yet at the college level.
He will likely receive the bulk of the carries for each game — something he has not done since his days at St. Peter’s Prep in Jackson, N.J.
Huggins has been focusing on making sure that he is fully prepared for this season’s start.
“I know what things I should do in the offseason to take care of my body — not just the cold tub and stretching,” Huggins said. “People say they do that, but it’s really more important now — especially when you get the bulk of the carries.”
Huggins said he spent the offseason trying to trim fat and add muscle. As a result, he said he has begun spring practice five pounds heavier.
Flood said Huggins’ attention to his body has shown through.
“I do think Savon is in excellent shape, but I didn’t think at any time that he wasn’t,” Flood said. “He’s maturing and coming into his body.”
Not only does Huggins have to protect against the wear and tear of a full workload, but [he] has to deal with the fact he is the most experienced member of the Knights’ backfield.
With that comes the role of being the main mentor of the group — something he has not experienced in his time at Rutgers.
“I have to be a leader out there,” Huggins said. “I was a leader always, but I really have to be vocal this year. I think it’s on me to really help out the offensive line and pick people up. I’m just trying to be a role model out there.”
Part of this involves knowing the offense inside and out so that he can instruct the younger players. That task has become more difficult since he and the rest of the offense must continue to adjust to the new coordinator, Ron Prince.
It helps that Huggins is roommates with starting quarterback Gary Nova — with whom he said he discusses plays with frequently.
The timetable may not have worked out the way Huggins intended, but he cannot change any of that.
“I didn’t [expect not to have the starting job until my junior year] — I will admit that, but everything happens for a reason,” Huggins said. “Now, it’s my time to go out there, have fun [and] be a starter.”
For updates on the Rutgers football team, follow Joey Gregory on Twitter @Joey_Gregory.