RBs In Spotlight Heading to Spring Practice

With Jawan Jamison spending the spring preparing for a new job in the NFL, Rutgers spring practice will be an opportunity for every running back still on the roster to make a statement for 2013 playing time. Highlighted by junior Savon Huggins, Rutgers will have a new-look backfield this season.

Year three is now or never time for Savon Huggins and his second spring with Rutgers is his best chance to become a feature tailback.

With Jawan Jamison entering his name into the NFL draft, Huggins is the lone running back on the roster with legitimate game experience or a body of work at the position. Rutgers coach Kyle Flood named Huggins the starter for spring with the expectations that he takes the next step in his development.

"I think Savon has earned that right and I'm really excited," Flood said when wrapping up the season. "I think we all saw what Savon can do in the Cincinnati game when given that kind of reps."

A five-star prospect with massive expectations upon his arrival in 2011, injuries and inconsistency kept him from being more than just a co-starter in his first two years. He started strong as a freshman with five touchdowns, but fumble problems and a season-ending knee injury paved the way for an 897-yard season for Jamison.

Huggins' sophomore year saw him take a backseat to Jamison and finish with 410 yards on 3.4 per carry. His marquee performance came in a 10-3 victory over Cincinnati. With Jamison limited significantly with an ankle injury, Huggins shouldered the load for 41 carries and a career-high 179 yards.

The top contenders for playing time behind Huggins all showed promise in high school, but have significant experience questions.

Walk-on Paul James is the only other back with game experience, running five times for 22 yards as a redshirt freshman. James has always been in the conversation for playing time, but only saw action in a blowout loss to Pittsburgh.

Behind James, Rutgers as a pair of freshmen in redshirt Desmon Peoples and early enrollee Dontea Ayres.

Peoples was the top scout-team choice in 2012 when facing dynamic athletes. Fumbles were an issue in training camp, however, and kept him from competing for playing time behind Jamison and Huggins.

Ayres will be full go following torn meniscus before his senior year. The bulky tailback can be a bruiser between the tackles, but has not played live football since his junior year at Wicomico High (Salisbury, Md.).

Sophomore Ben Martin can also expect reps after moving back to offense from cornerback in training camp.

Regardless of assigned practice reps, the run game gets a tremendous boost with the return of fullback Michael Burton from a season-ending leg injury. Rutgers averaged 155.3 rushing yards per game with Burton healthy, but finished the season at just 121.4.

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