The Rutgers backfield will have a bit of a different look next season now that it will be without its top rusher from the past two seasons. With Jawan Jamison declaring for the the 2013 NFL Draft, the starting running back job will be in a new set of hands.
Sophomore running back Savon Huggins started two games this past season, filling in for an injured Jamison. In one of those starts, which came against Cincinnati, Huggins proved quite capable gaining 179 yards on 41 carries.
"I think Savon has earned that right and I'm really excited. I think we all saw what Savon can do in the Cincinnati game when given those type of runs," head coach Kyle Flood said. "And I think he's the type of running back because he's a powerful, strong runner; he's the kind of guy as he gets in the game and has the ability to get more and more carries, I think he'll get better as the game goes on."
Losing Jamison opens up a lot of carries as the redshirt sophomore carried the football 255 times this past season and also caught 28 passes out of the backfield.
But Flood understands the nature of the business.
"I think Jawan is in a situation where he feels he can help his family and his mother and his younger siblings," he said. "And he got a [draft] grade back from the advisory committee that he felt was significant enough to make the risk/reward of that decision worth it for him and his family."
Playing backup to Jamison last season, Huggins carried 119 times for a total of 431 yards.
Now, with Huggins coming into the spring as the No.1 running back, the search for a No.2 will begin in April.
The candidates for that spot are true freshman Desmon Peoples and redshirt freshmen Paul James and Ben Martin. The duo of Martin and James combined for 15 carries in 2012.
"I think we need to look at all three of those guys to really decide what our depth is going to be at that position," Flood said. "We're hoping actually one of the new players from the signing class [Dontea Ayres] will be with us as well this spring, I think that will help us as well. But we need to figure out exactly what the depth is going to be behind Savon and I think all those guys are going to have an opportunity.
"P.J. James is a very strong runner and Desmon Peoples is extremely hard to get on the ground, hard to tackle. So we have some players but now they are going to have to do it against better competition."
A couple of those candidates also received an endorsement from Jamison last week.
"Savon did a tremendous job when I got hurt," Jamison said. "He came in and stepped up. And P.J. is a hard-nosed-runner. He always kept both of us on our toes, running behind us and pushing us in practice. He's a really good running back."