Huggins regains form in win
Savon Huggins insists he never lost confidence after sitting out two games because of a lower leg injury — his second in as many seasons. But the sophomore running back said he gained some against Connecticut last Saturday, when Huggins earned his first touches for the Rutgers football team in nearly a month.
“[It was important] to get my confidence back for my knee and feel I can do everything,” Huggins said yesterday. “It was great for me to get my feet wet out there.”
The sophomore running back carried the ball four times for 16 yards, his best per-carry average this season. He last touched the ball against Howard on Sept. 8, when he left a game for only the second time in his career — both with the Scarlet Knights.
Head coach Kyle Flood said Huggins’ role could expand once he acclimates to the speed of the game.
“He ran well,” Flood said. “He was very decisive, and he had two plays in the game where he was able to pick up blitzes that were critical points that allowed us to complete passes.”
Huggins credits his improved pass blocking to position coach Norries Wilson, a former offensive lineman at Minnesota. He picked up his work with Wilson last week, when Huggins returned to practice for the first time since leaving abruptly against Howard.
He said the coaching staff liked what it saw in the team’s Big East home opener.
“So now they’re going to put me in more,” Huggins said. “So my workload is going to increase. I felt good out there.”
His biggest concern swirled around swelling in his knee.
Huggins suffered the most significant injuries of his career within 10 months of each other — the first a separate knee injury in 2011 — but said he was never overly cautious.
“I just wanted to get everything back,” said Huggins, whose lower body strength helped in his recovery. “At first, you have to get more reps and reps because it was still swollen a little. But after getting reps on it, the swelling went down and I was able to feel good and I ran good.”
He will do so moving forward with a new fullback.
Sophomore Paul Carrezola overtook classmate Sam Bergen on the depth chart Monday at the position. Carrezola, a tight end, played sparingly in an H-back role last year.
“You have a tight end in the backfield. Now you don’t know what you’re going to do,” Huggins said. “He can get it up the seam or down the sideline, or he can block. He can do everything. We haven’t lost a step basically.”
Flood expects Carrezola to line up in several spots, including the line of scrimmage. But it is the first time Carrezola has played the position full time.
“I picked up my job rather quickly from the summer,” Carrezola said. “There’s still a lot of stuff I need to learn and be more consistent at in order to get better at it.”
Tight ends coach Darnell Dinkins covers fullback responsibilities in position meetings, Carrezola said, and Carrezola works with Wilson on occasion. He seeks out Bergen and injured sophomore fullback Michael Burton on the position’s nuances.
Carrezola played fullback briefly in the spring, but an injury to senior D.C. Jefferson prompted his return to tight end.
Offensive coordinator Dave Brock utilized Burton, out for the season with a lower leg injury, as a pass catcher in his pro-style system. The philosophy figures to remain when the Knights line up two tight ends — one on the line and another in the backfield.
“I’m not sure exactly what it does to a defense,” Carrezola said, “but I know for us it gives us different options that we can use.
Flood said he is optimistic that freshman kicker Kyle Federico will play in some capacity Saturday against Syracuse despite not practicing yesterday.
Federico left against UConn with a lower leg injury and did not return.
“He could be limited,” said Flood, who spoke with head athletic trainer David McCune. “We’ll just have to see ultimately what he can give us by the end of the week.”
An ongoing competition remains behind Federico — or for his position, should he not play — with multiple candidates.
Sophomore Nick DeLouisa replaced Federico against UConn, but he missed a fourth-quarter PAT attempt. The Knights also could add an unnamed walk-on kicker they worked out following yesterday’s practice.
For updates on the Rutgers football team, follow Tyler Barto on Twitter @TBartoTargum.
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