Saquan Hampton to miss New Mexico, Robert Martin, Jawuan Harris set to start
Chris Ash opened his weekly press conference before the Rutgers football team’s home opener last Monday by addressing his policy in addressing injuries — if it’s not long-term, it won’t be reported.
The first-year head coach also rid of the injury report that came along with the weekly depth chart, another change he’s made in his short time on the Banks.
So when he brought up injury in his opening statement a week later in the press conference previewing the Scarlet Knights (1-1) game against New Mexico this Saturday (noon, ESPNEWS), it shows the severity of it.
Ash announced sophomore free safety Saquan Hampton, who did not play in the Knights 52-14 win over Howard in its home opener last Saturday, will be out for the “next few weeks.”
“Injury update, again, not talking a lot about injuries, but one that will be out for a while is Saquan Hampton,” he said. “He'll miss the next few weeks. He will be back later on this season ... Not sure when we'll get him back yet, but it won't be for a few weeks.”
The loss of a starter on defense comes on the heels of Rutgers returning a key starter on offense in Robert Martin.
The junior running back was atop the pecking order at his position heading into training camp according to Ash, but a nagging injury prevented him from playing in the Knights’ season-opening 48-13 loss to No. 8 Washington in Seattle.
Senior Justin Goodwin took his place at the top of the depth chart in the first two weeks of the season, but a “really good week of practice” last week earned Martin the start against the Bison. Fifteen carries and 84 yards later, the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, native returns to the top of the food chain at tailback.
“Rob had a good week of practice,” said offensive coordinator Drew Mehringer on how Martin earned the nod. “He battled through some injuries through fall camp and within the first week of the season ... (He) practiced hard, ran the ball really well for us, had good vision coming out of the backfield, so putting him into that spot was not an easy choice because the other guys have been playing well.”
While Martin’s rise back to starter wasn’t surprising, Jawuan Harris’ ascension to the top of the depth chart at wide receiver was very much not expected.
The redshirt freshman, who missed spring camp to play centerfield for the Rutgers baseball team, leapfrogged senior Carlton Agudosi, who is now listed as a back-up to classmate Andre Patton, for the starting spot.
Harris, of St. Thomas Aquinas High School (Fla.), had two catches for 49 yards in his home debut against Howard, the second of which was a 29-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter, the last of three thrown by Laviano.
“Once he came over to football full time and we really got a chance to work with our team and our staff, he showed right away that he had the ability to potentially be a playmaker for us,” Ash said. “He had a great summer (and) had a really good training camp. I think he's off to a pretty good start in the first two games. (I'm) anxious to see him continue to grow and progress and learn the offense and become a bigger part of our offense.”
Ash went on to lump Harris together with Martin and senior wide receiver Janarion Grant as the top playmakers on the Knights — an honor considering the impact the latter had in the offense in their first two games of the season.
A week after scoring Rutgers’ only touchdown against Washington, the Trillby, Florida, native scored three against Howard, including an 84 yard kick-off return that shifted momentum from the Bison to the Knights.
For that return and the other 35 yards he gathered in the return game, Grant was named the Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week Monday morning, kicking off game week three the same way he turned his team’s latest game around — with a spark.
“An honor well-deserved,” Ash said. “He's been an outstanding kickoff return guy and even punt return, although he hasn't had a lot of opportunities. He's fielded a lot of punts, but he's been an outstanding returner for us in the first two weeks. He's had a tradition of doing that here throughout his career, and (I'm) excited for him to be able to receive that honor.”