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August 12, 2013It is a busy time in Piscataway with so much happening on both the football field as well as the recruiting front. As a new week begins, The Monday Morning Kickoff gets you ready for more exciting days in the Scarlet Nation.
A view from the gridiron (Rutgers football)
Rutgers completed its first scrimmage of the summer on Saturday and quarterback Gary Nova led the way, going 15-of-17 for 282 yards to go along with a pair of touchdowns.
"I felt confident and my body is feeling great, my arm is feeling great and it was a great day to go out there and just have fun," Nova said. "...I think the offense did good. The energy was there, the effort was there, guys were flying around and that's all you can ask for."
The running game featured a trio of running backs, which included a breakout performance by true freshman Justin Goodwin, who carried 14 times for 43 yards. Paul James had the fewest touches of that trio but was very effective each time he touched the football. James carried 3 times for 43 yards and scored a touchdown while also catching two passes for 17 yards and another touchdown.
Junior Savon Huggins had the lowest numbers of all three running backs on the day, gaining only 11 yards on eight carries. Dating back to the spring, Huggins has struggled to gain yards in a starting role. In the team's last three scrimmages, he has carried a total of 49 times for 51 yards.
After Saturday's scrimmage, Flood commented on the running back situation.
"I think the three running backs that carried the ball the most [Savon Huggins, Paul James and Justin Goodwin] all did a nice job today. I felt like we could win with all three of them today."
Some of the other standouts from Saturday's scrimmage included Quron Pratt, Paul Carrezola, Betim Bujari, Lew Toler, Sebastian Joseph and Leonte Carroo, who has been the MVP of the summer thus far.
"Leonte - it's not a surprise, it would be something that I would expect. Leonte Carroo is going to be an excellent football player here and I think he's already proven that," Flood said. "He's already played at a high level in games, even though it was on special teams last year."
Flood also said some depth chart changes could come today as the team will return to the field for the first of two practices beginning at 8:30 a.m. Stay logged onto Scarlet Nation for all the latest developments directly from the practice field today and throughout the rest of training camp.
The inside scoop (Rutgers recruiting)
The Scarlet Knights nabbed a huge commitment on Saturday when four-star in-state wide receiver Saeed Blacknall of Manalapan High School pledged while on campus for Rutgers' first training camp scrimmage.
The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Blacknall chose RU over offers from Alabama, LSU and Ohio State, among others.
"It's just one of those things where there is no place like home," Blacknall said. "You're not going to get treated any better than you will at home. People really care about you and you know you're going to see a lot of familiar faces."
The number three senior in the state according to NJVarsity.com and the 109th in the country according to Rivals, Blacknall gives Rutgers commitments from three of the state's top five wide receivers, joining Cedar Grove's David Njoku and Timber Creek's Adonis Jennings.
"He's just a great football player. He could be a linebacker, a safety, a running back," Blacknall's head coach Ed Gurrieri said. "He could do anything. He plays safety for me. I roll him down into the box, and he fills up run plays like our linebackers."
Blacknall's commitment gives Rutgers four 4-star prospects in the class of 2014, three of them (Blacknall, DePaul defensive back Kiy Hester and Jennings) from New Jersey.
Keeping him in-state can be counted as a major coup for Kyle Flood and the Rutgers staff.
"This is Rutgers versus the Alabamas, the Ohio States, the LSU," Gurrieri said. "You're going up against [Nick] Saban, Urban Meyer, Les Miles. For Rutgers to keep him home, I think that's a huge victory for them."
Besides Blacknall, a multitude of other recruits also checked out the scrimmage, including 2014 commits Hester, Ramapo defensive end Jimmy Hogan, Nottingham defensive back Saquan Hampton and Weequahic linebacker Sidney Gopre.
St. Peter's Prep senior running back Jonathan Hilliman, one of the top uncommitted prospects in the state, also was in attendance with 2015 teammates Minkah Fitzpatrick and Brandon Wimbush.
Other 2015 attendees included Union City offensive lineman Steven Gonzalez and athlete Daiquan Kelly, and South Brunswick athlete Dontae Strickland. Like Fitzpatrick and Wimbush, all three of those juniors have offers from Rutgers.
Hilliman, meanwhile, counts Rutgers among his top choices, and after visiting Piscataway two weeks ago, declared he would announce his commitment this week. He was slated to visit Vanderbilt and Miami in the interim, but told Scarlet Nation over the weekend he did not make either visit.
Since announcing his intended timeframe, Hilliman has been quiet about his recruitment. If he goes carries out his plan to commit this week, Rutgers stands in good position to land his pledge.
Stick with Scarlet Nation and the Round Table for the latest on Hilliman's recruitment as it continues to play out.
The take from center court (Rutgers basketball)
The championship game of the 2013 Jersey Mike's Jersey Shore Basketball League between Seaview Jeep and Sterns Trailer will be contested tonight at 7:30 p.m. at Wall High School, and Rutgers will have representatives on both squads.
Junior swingman Malick Kone will suit up for Seaview, while senior forward Wally Judge and ex-Knight Dane Miller are scheduled to play for Sterns. Iowa State trailer Kerwin Okoro is also on the Sterns roster but has not played in the last few games.
Sterns captured the title last year with ex-Rutgers players Mike Poole and Derrick Randall on the roster, while Miller won a league championship with Investors Savings Bank in 2011.