Card want a five-star pick: RB Savon Huggins

This spring, tailback Savon Huggins is piling up offers like he has yards and touchdowns in autumns past – Florida, Alabama, USC, Notre Dame, Oregon, Penn State, Georgia, Michigan, Nebraska and, of course, Stanford are among the dozens of schools to have offered's No. 6 tailback, a solid five-star prospect from Jersey City, N.J.

Savon Huggins will announce a top ten from his 50 or so offers in July. Hometown Rutgers will be on it; Huggins won't divulge any other names. He does plan to visit Wisconsin, Notre Dame and Florida, and also talks of a West Coast trip, which Stanford will obviously hope includes a stop in Palo Alto.

Already though, Huggins knows more about Stanford than one might think, thanks in no small part to an offensive guard two years Huggins' senior. When that guard, Khalil Wilkes, wasn't busy blocking for Huggins, he found time to commit to play football for Stanford University, where he's now a rising academic junior. Wilkes is one of the most personable players on Stanford's 85-man roster, and he has not been shy about the Cardinal around Huggins.

"[Khalil] goes there and tells me a lot about the school, he tells me about it," Huggins said in an interview earlier this week with "That solidifies my interest, his talking about Stanford a lot.

"My grades are up to par. They fit the Stanford criteria. Athletes are not looked at differently -- students are all treated equally at Stanford. That's how it is at [my high school, St. Peters] Prep. Academically, it doesn't get any better than that. And they're in the Pac-10, and they were in the running for the Rose Bowl this past year. And they run the ball. So a lot of things draw me to them, plus I watched them this year."

New Jersey may be on its way to becoming the Georgia of the north for Stanford football recruiting, for while the Cardinal have been improbably successful in the Peach State, they're also starting to build a pipeline in the Garden State, of which Wilkes is a major part. Another, more recent addition to Stanford's Jersey haul is 2011 linebacker Anthony Sarao, and he's also been in Huggins' ear.

"I'm cool with [Anthony] too," Huggins said. "He said, ‘I don't want to tell you anything, you have to see it for yourself.' Khalil said it won't disappoint, and I'll have the same academic opportunities he had, and stuff like that. I think should give it a look."

Huggins has also talked with Stanford coaches, including David Shaw, offensive coordinator and running back coach.

"I talk a lot with [Shaw] and he stresses that they run the ball. That's their main calling: run, run, run, and pass after," Huggins said. "They get it to the running back and they need a back with speed."

Huggins says he fits that profile, and offers both speed and agility.

"I'm a good back overall," he said. "Some are scat backs, some are quick, but I think I can do both. Track helps me out -- being on the move, cutting on a dime, breaking tackles, with balance."

Huggins offers a similarly illuminating answer when asked what he hopes to improve. Most players talk about concrete, physical skills, but Huggins' answer centered more upon an intangible quality.

"Everything, everything can be better," he said, "watching tape, stuff like that, but being a leader, I think is main thing for me. This year, in terms of the game, the main thing is just to be a leader. My ability is there and I'll keep working to get better. Blocking is also huge, but I want to be a leader."

Leadership is an appropriate ambition for an immensely talented rising senior, and it may be sorely needed on a squad that's a perennial powerhouse, yet has struggled in recent years to get over the proverbial hump.

"Last year, we lost in the State Finals," Huggins said. "We're in the State Finals every year, I guess you could say. We lost to Bosco the last couple of years, so we had a good year. We have good kids this year, a lot of athletes that can take that championship once again. We'll be there every year, that's our mindset, to win a State Championship every year. It's not, ‘we're getting ready for the playoffs,' we talk about making sure our visits are after the State Championship. We don't think of less than that."

(There is no shame, by the way, in losing to Don Bosco Prep. The school has beat California powerhouse De La Salle the last two years, and this year, visited fellow national power Prattsville, Ala. and won, with the contest televised on ESPN. After beating St. Peters in the State Finals in Giants Stadium, Bosco became the first Jersey team to finish the No. 1 team in the nation.)

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While Huggins hones his leadership skills this coming season, Stanford and dozens of other schools will continue to give chase. Luckily for Stanford, Huggins says distance isn't a major factor.

"I don't think it is right now," he said. "I should go wherever I feel comfortable. I know I'll be homesick, but where my heart tells me, I should go."

Similarly, Huggins is also not scared by Stanford's recent string of running back recruiting, which has been nearly 2006 USC-esque. He does, however, want a fair shot at seeing the field as a freshman, and is similarly adamant that he not be converted away from running back.

"I look at it as I want early playing time, but any college coach who tells you you'll start is lying to you. You're going to compete. I'd like to compete right away. The main thing is I want to be a running back. Don't tell me one thing and then when I get there, it's something different."

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Huggins reports solid grades in the midst of some unusually steep logistical hurdles.

"I have a 92, 93 average, which is probably like a 3.6," he said. "It's hard to take a whole bunch of honors classes because of my schedule. I live two hours away. I've managed to take honors bio, algebra and trig, and Stanford would want me to take a couple AP classes, but it would be impossible to, and they understand my situation."

Like many football recruits, Huggins hopes to study human movement while in college.

"Kinesiology, sports management, physical therapy, physical training," Huggins said of potential areas of study. "I want to study the body, medicine, and maybe be able to do journalism too. But kinesiology I think is where I'll do best."

Ultimately, Huggins presents a set of criteria in selecting a college that sound pretty favorable for Stanford, a school whose academics may distinguish it from many of Huggins' other suitors.

"It'll be how I feel, my comfort level and the opportunities that the college can offer me --whether it is to move on to the league or get a prestigious job," he said.

However, as is always the case in high school football recruiting, only time will tell. Where Huggins signs his name early next February will be the ultimate judge, but until then, stay tuned to The Bootleg as we track Stanford's 2011 football prospects from sea to shining sea.

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PS – How's this for trivia: Marshall Faulk, who Savon grew up watching as a child, is the inspiration for his jersey number of 28.

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