RB Huggins Ready for Anything

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Rutgers junior running back Savon Huggins could see multiple roles Saturday pending the health of starter Paul James. Huggins played as the third-down back against UCF and Connecticut, but could be back as the starter if James does not improve during the week.

Junior Savon Huggins has had more role changes this season than almost any player on the offense, and his job against South Florida remains unclear during game week.

With the "50-50" status of starter Paul James for the regular-season finale, Huggins plans to be ready for any job.

"It's a great opportunity to go out and play basically," Huggins said. "Whatever my job is, I want to, and we all want to, go out and finish strong for the seniors."

Huggins began the season as a feature back in the offense, but lost the role to James after the loss to Fresno State. He worked as a backup, and had a chance to retake the job following the first injury to James, but saw freshman Justin Goodwin emerge.

Since the return of James, Huggins has stepped into a third-down back role. His role focuses on third-down pass protection, and receiving plays out of the backfield. Going into game 12, Huggins has 92 total touches for 330 yards and two touchdowns.

"It's pass blocking," Huggins said on his new third-down role. "I've had some good [blitz] pickups. I run and caught the ball to get a couple of first downs and maintain drives. You have to be reliable to be successful."

The running game received criticism from coach Kyle Flood for a lack of physicality in losses to UCF and Connecticut. Huggins said that became a focus in Tuesday's practice, the first since losing to the Huskies, and needs to improve across the board.

"We weren't playing well as a unit, and we need to do better," Huggins said. "We just have to work on finishing. That's what the coaches are telling us. It's staying on our assignments and doing better pass protection and our receivers catching balls. It's a collective thing. We need to do the right things, and have two more good practices and stay in command."

Rutgers has two more practices to make improvements and a walkthrough Friday before the improvements get tested.

"We need to get each other better on all sides of the ball," Huggins said. "That's why we go ones versus ones in practice every day. Every day we compete, and it gets us ready for Saturdays. The scout team does a great job, but they can't give you the same look as opposed to the first-team defense, and I like that."

USF brings one of the toughest looks at defensive line for the Scarlet Knights this season. South Florida is No. 14 in the nation with its 7.5 TFLs per game, and already has 20 more than last season's total.

Senior Luke Sager leads with way with a team-high 11 TFLs but there are multiple weapons including Elkino Watson, Aaron Lynch and DeDe Lattimore in the running game.

"They're very physical," Huggins said. "They're big and strong. They have a great defense that is obviously better than their record. You can't sleep on them. They almost beat Central Florida, so you have to go out there ready to compete on every down."

Huggins said sending the seniors out with a win has become a goal in the locker room for this week.

"They're excited," he said. "It's their last go-around and they want to go out with a bang. I look up to them, and they've taken me under their wing since I've been up here. I have a solid relationship with all of them, so I think it's definitely more meaningful to get to a bowl game and try to win for them."


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