Fitness, Nutrition Key for Huggins

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Savon Huggins projects to start as the feature back for the 2013 Rutgers football team. After two inconsistent seasons with injuries, Huggins met the offseason with increased focus on fitness, nutrition and getting tougher.

PISCATAWAY, N.J. – The first two Rutgers years for Savon Huggins taught him that he needed to work harder and live healthier if he wanted to take the next step on the field.

Battling injuries, and Jawan Jamison, for time at running back as a freshman and sophomore, Huggins took a step forward in the offseason and is more devoted than ever to a strong mind and body.

"I took care of my body a lot more," said Huggins on the eve of the first camp scrimmage. "I'm more aware of things I'm doing. I'm taking care and getting massages, stretching every night. I really take pride in stretching every night now.

"I've been doing it all summer toward the end of the school year and now at camp. There are improvements where I don't feel as tired. I'm fatigued, maybe, in my chest but I'm not as tired in my legs where I used to be. I saw [New England Patriots linebacker] Steve Beauharnais do it and he was successful, so I'm starting to do it like he did."

Huggins and roommates Gary Nova and Kaleb Johnson put extra emphasis on nutrition in the offseason. Huggins sees a noticeable difference one week through camp.

"We're juniors," Huggins said. "We have to start being more grown up. We don't live in the dorms anymore.

"We have an apartment now, so we're not going to live on dining hall food. We buy our food now. We have to make smarter decisions. Seeing the upperclassmen do it, it catches your attention. You see all these guys that are in the league and how they did it, that's how we're going to do it. We have to follow the examples of guys like Khaseem [Greene] and Steve and Logan Ryan."

The offense tends to be a step behind the defense in the first scrimmage of any training camp, but Huggins is looking for a strong day.

After mixed results in three scrimmages this spring, Huggins sees Saturday at High Point Solutions Stadium as a chance to take a step forward.

"I'm getting a lot better, but we still have some more work to do," Huggins said. "We're missing a few blocks here and there and I can finish better. … I just have to be focused on taking care of my body and watching film and getting ready for tomorrow."

Huggins averaged less than three yards per carry in the first two scrimmages of the spring, but finished strong with 4.2 yards per carry and a touchdown in the spring game.

The line changes midway through spring paid off in the running game, Huggins said.

"Camaraderie is a lot better," he said. "We communicate with each other a lot more this camp than we did during the season. That's a lot of steps and the offseason really helped.

"I think we're well far ahead [compared to last season]. We're giving the defense very good looks. We're confusing the defense with different things. Right now it's just about us and our offense. We're getting better as a unit and continuing to get better every day. I think we are in the right direction."

Huggins is set to take over as the feature back this season after Jamison's departure to the NFL. He said 1,300 yards – 100 per game – is a realistic goal as a junior.

"Just give me the ball and I'll get the first down and keep the chains moving basically," Huggins said. "Whatever the case may be, if it's 16 carries or 20 or 30 carries, anything I can do to get the job done."

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