Early struggles do not deter freshman RB
Savon Huggins did not expect his status as the Rutgers football team’s prized 2011 recruit to translate into immediate on-field success.
The freshman from St. Peter’s Prep knew he had to work his way into more playing time through practice, and progression would occur over time.
Through two games, Huggins and the Scarlet Knights still await that moment.
“It’s a great experience, some ups and downs,” Huggins said. “But this is all part of the game. I didn’t expect to go in here and [have] everything be great. I just have a humble attitude to go through the whole thing, and we’ll be fine.”
Huggins racked up only seven carries in the Knights’ 24-22 loss Saturday to North Carolina, and rushed for only a 3.3 yard-per-carry average against North Carolina Central.
The tie that binds him with junior De’Antwan Williams and redshirt freshman Jawan Jamison still exists, although head coach Greg Schiano expects some clarity at running back in the near future.
When Schiano sits down Sunday to prepare for Rutgers’ game week against Ohio, he plans to whittle the competition down to two backs, with the exception of Deering.
“We’re going to give everybody opportunities,” Schiano said. “Jeremy is his own entity because Jeremy does so much with his … motion. We do a lot of things with him. So that’s going to be one of the challenges that we’ll have to look at.”
Huggins figures to be one of the running backs to survive Schiano’s downsizing.
He scored a pair of touchdowns against NC Central and was competent in pass blocking, something St. Peter’s Prep head coach Rich Hansen did not ask him to do in high school.
And after all, Schiano and the Knights coaching staff invested enough in Huggins to preserve a prominent role in the rotation for the 6-foot, 200-pounder.
Despite his ineffectiveness, Huggins insisted he is not frustrated.
“I’m patient. I’m humble. This is what I expected,” he said. “ I don’t expect anything more than my place. I look up to the upperclassmen, work hard, and I see what they have to do to follow off of them. They’re leaders to me, so I look up to them.”
There are not many upperclassmen in the Knights’ backfield. Williams’ previous two seasons featured mop-up duty against Football Championship Subdivision opponents and minimal action last year at Pittsburgh.
Deering lined up at wide receiver as a freshman and ran the Wildcat formation when junior Mohamed Sanu suffered through nagging injuries.
Sanu, who ran through holes along the offensive line as a freshman in the Wildcat, sees what Huggins can do in the open field in practice.
“He is just a very humble and smart kid, very gifted, able to see things I don’t see sometimes,” Sanu said of Huggins. “I’m just impressed with the way he makes those sudden cuts.”
Although his on-field ability did not sustain itself through two games outside of practice, Huggins remains confident, he said.
His attitude stems from the running back corps.
“As a running back unit and a team, we build off each other and we trust each other,” Huggins said. “If one person’s not doing as well, they bring him up. The confidence is always high because we know what we can do, and we have the supporting cast — Jawan Jamison, Rocket [Williams], Jeremy. They all help me out. We all help each other out.”
But the communication between the offensive line and running backs beckons improvement.
The Knights’ ground game averaged only 0.04 yards on 25 carries, resulting in a net of one yard against the Tar Heels.
“We need to keep building chemistry,” Huggins said of the two units. “We didn’t really run the ball well last week, but that’s OK. We still were in the ball game. Now we know what we have to do to be able to force the run.”
The time will come when Rutgers’ moving parts develop a sustainable rushing attack, Huggins said. If it does, Huggins will likely be the benefactor.
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