In the running

With a three-star running back signing each of the past two seasons, it's not like Northwestern has been recruiting a bunch of backfield slouches recently. But even so, the list of backs NU is targeting for 2011, including Savon Huggins, stands out. A closer look at the three-, four- and five-star running backs NU is recruiting, and why it's so different from years past.

It's not like Northwestern has been recruiting a bunch of backfield slouches recently. The Wildcats, after all, extended offers to a handful of three-star running backs in the 2010 class, and between Adonis Smith in 2010 and Arby Fields in 2009, they have inked a letter of intent from three-star backs each of the past two seasons.

But even with Smith and Fields, the 2011 running back targets stand out. Indeed, NU simply hasn't been chasing running backs this highly-touted, with this many offers, over the last couple of years.

Northwestern has offered a pair of Top 15 running back prospects: Five-star Savon Huggins (Jersey City, N.J.) and four-star Justice Hayes (Grand Blanc, Mich.). Northwestern has also offered some three-star backs in Adonis Ameen-Moore (Denver, Colo.) and Tra Carson (Texarkana, Tex.).

And those are just the guys who are uncommitted. Northwestern was also previously targeting four-star Indiana native Remound Wright* (who recently committed to Stanford), and had offered three-star running backs Tom Smith (committed to Tennessee) and Jarrell Oliver (committed to Utah).

* reported that Northwestern had offered Wright, although Wright told Purple Reign that NU had never officially offered. Either way, he has committed to Stanford.

This list of prospects is especially interesting when you look at the running backs NU offered in 2010, all of whom were rated by Scout as two- and three-star players. The three-star crew included NU commit Adonis Smith, Shontrelle Johnson (who committed to Northwestern before decommitting and committing to Iowa State), Cameron Roberson (Notre Dame), and Myron Ross (who decommitted from Vanderbilt and ended up at Temple). NU had also offered two-star backs Kevin Pope (Southern Methodist) and Kedrick Rhodes (Florida International).

So, that's three three-stars and two two-stars compared to this year's slate of three-, four- and five-star guys. What's more, Northwestern didn't offer any four- or five-star backs in the 2009 class either. Thus, the current recruitment of these big-time backs is a bit of a shift from the recent norm.

Now, how about a closer look at the uncommitted 2011 targets?

While too long to print in its entirety, Huggins' list of offers includes Alabama, Florida, Oregon, Tennessee, Stanford and Penn State. Those are the type of schools that come calling when, like Huggins, you rush for more than 1,500 yards and 22 touchdowns as a junior.

Huggins, 6-foot and 200 pounds, is rated by Scout as the No. 6 running back in the nation. He has visited Penn State, Notre Dame, Northwestern and others, and is set to announce a top 10 in the beginning of July.

Meanwhile, the 5-10, 182-pound Hayes is no slouch himself. Scout's No. 15 back in the 2011 class, Hayes has offers from Notre Dame, Tennessee, Michigan, Michigan State and several others. Last year he rushed for better than 1,400 yards and 15 touchdowns.

Earlier this month, Hayes told's Allen Wallace that he is favoring Michigan State and Notre Dame slightly over Northwestern, Iowa, Tennessee and Michigan.

"I feel like they're really heading to the next level," Hayes told Wallace. "They're turning it around and have gotten some big five-star players recently. I think they'll be contending for a national title soon."

That's not to say, however, that Northwestern isn't in the running for this ballyhooed running back. In May, Hayes said that Northwestern had "the upper hand" because they were the first school to offer him – not to mention that Hayes' friend and former high school teammate Tony Jones was part of Northwestern's 2010 class.

Hayes has visited NU a few times, and while he told Wallace the Michigan State and Notre Dame were looking particularly good, he also said, "These six (schools) are all great and I can see myself at any of them."

And then there are Ameen-Moore and Carson. The 5-11, 215-pound Ameen-Moore is the No. 68-ranked back according to Scout. He plays at Mullen High School in Denver, where NU offensive coordinator (and head Ameen-Moore recruiter) Mick McCall used to coach.

"Their offensive coordinator is a former Mullen coach and we have a great relationship," Ameen-Moore told Wallace. "They've been to like two consecutive bowl games and that's good. The team is definitely heading in the right direction."

Ameen-Moore, who also has offers from Colorado, Syracuse and others, rushed for more than 1,600 yards and 20 touchdowns as a junior.

At 6-1 and 218 pounds, Carson, the No. 60 running back, finished his junior season with 1,362 yards and 20 touchdowns. Along with Northwestern, he has offers from Minnesota, Louisville, New Mexico and Wyoming.

It is obvious that Northwestern's target group of running backs is, if not better, at least more highly-regarded and heavily-recruited than those in years past. What's not obvious, however, is how many of these players – or, for that matter, if any of these players – will end up in Evanston. And we might not know for a while.

Huggins will make a decision "when the time is right" (which could mean any time in the next seven or eight months); Hayes said he'll wait until after his senior season is over; Ameen-Moore is leaning toward a December or January decision; Carson told Purple Reign that he'll make a decision after the summer.

These particular recruits, though, would certainly be worth the wait.

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