Saturday's scrimmage inside High Point Solutions Stadium was the first opportunity for highly-touted freshman running back Savon Huggins to showcase his talents under game-like conditions.
Huggins, NJVarsity.com's top-rated in-state player for the class of 2011, didn't hesitate to live up to at least some of the hype that had surrounded him throughout the recruiting process. Huggins finished the day with 169 yards and one touchdown on 26 carries, leaving a good impression on his peers in the process.
"I was actually really impressed with him today," said starting quarterback Chas Dodd. "He had a great day, broke some tackles, and made some plays. It's good to see a young guy like that come in and have some plays like that. He's got to learn the offense and hopefully he can help us out this year."
Huggins' most scintillating run of the day came when he broke a 52-yard touchdown against the first-team defense. He showed the ability to grind out tough yards as well as bounce to the outside, a skill that impressed wide receiver Mark Harrison.
"It's good to have a back like that; it opens up a lot of things for the offense as a whole," said Harrison. "He was hitting those holes real strong. We definitely as receivers have to read our blocks more and get him to that open field in the secondary because he's going to shoot right by them like you saw today."
Joe Martinek manned the halfback position for three seasons at Rutgers, before converting to fullback in the spring. Martinek is also happy with the early returns he sees from Huggins and believe the best is definitely still to come.
"I think everyone was impressed with him. The upside is, he has so much to learn and he's still this good," Martinek. "He's a great kid who keeps asking questions. The more reps he gets, the more he learns. It's a hard adjustment coming from high school. You have to learn what works, what doesn't work, what you can do, and all the reads. Once he becomes more comfortable with all that stuff, he's going to become a great player."
Fifth-year senior offensive lineman Desmond Wynn described how it felt to block for Huggins.
"Savon's great. Savon's real tough, he's a real tough runner," Wynn said. "I saw him out there on runs where I'm sitting, okay, he goes squirting out. I'm like 'Wow, this guys good.' His vision is great, he's just a real tough guy. I like him a lot."
After the scrimmage, head coach Greg Schiano assessed the performance of Huggins and his backfield counterpart, De'Antwan Williams.
"I think they both ran well, they both danced a little too much, which is expected," Schiano said. "They both want to hit a home run. We just have to get them to both be a little more decisive, but I think they both were productive. When you look at their body of work, they both were productive, which is important."
Schiano lauded both backs for their escapability, saying "The thing that I talked to you guys about the other day is they made some people miss and they broke some tackles. They were patient enough to let people roll over the play, cutback and have some opportunities where it was 1-on-1 and broke the tackle. Those are the things that great backs do; I'm not ready to ordain either one of them as great backs but they did a good job today.
"When you have a back like that, what could possibly be a negative play all of a sudden turns into a gain of two. Now to the regular fan or people watching the game, it's a two-yard gain and they don't get excited, but to a coach instead of being 2nd-and-13, you're 2nd-and-8. It's two different worlds."