The Rutgers University football program will open its 2011-'12 campaign Thursday, Sept. 1, against visiting North Carolina Central with what some are claiming as, "an embarrassment of riches at running back". Behind the multi-talented sophomore Jeremy Deering, star freshman Savon Huggins and junior De'Antwan Williams it's hard to argue against that statement, especially when you break it down.
Despite being just a rookie, Huggins (6-foot-0, 200 pounds) has been annotated as the next great RU running back who's going to transform a running attack that finished 110th out of 120 schools into one of the best in the Big East Conference.
"I really don’t think about that stuff. I just go out there and play," said Huggins to The Star-Ledger in early August. "If I mess up, I mess up. No one is perfect. I just focus and keep my eye on the prize pretty much. And my eye on the prize is to contribute to this team any way I can."
During RU's first scrimmage, Aug. 6, Huggins, who's the first New Jersey, No. 1 recruit to become a Scarlet Knight, gave RU fans a sneak peak of his talent by rushing for 168 yards on 26 carries, including a 52-yard touchdown.
However, it's still unclear if Huggins or Williams will get his first collegiate start Thursday night.
"He's going to play. He knows he's going to touch the ball," head coach Greg Schiano said of Huggins, Aug. 14. "I don't know who's going to start (at tailback). We'll see. I think (Williams) is three years in this program and he has busted his hump the past 12 months and has really done everything the way we've asked.
"Well see. Whatever play (offensive coordinator) Frank Cignetti thinks we should run first, that will be a factor in who gets it."
Last season, Williams (5-8, 193) carried the ball just 19 times for 114 yards in a lot of mop-up duty. But, Schiano seems to be pleased with the work of Williams during the offseason and training camp.
"(Williams has) done everything we asked him to do for the last 11 or 12 months," says Schiano. "I think there’s a huge difference. Up until (this offseason) he just never really understood what it took to be a college football player. He always got by on talent. He’s made a commitment to do everything we’ve asked him to do."
Also, in the mix is sophomore Jeremy Deering (6-2, 205), who gained most of his 331 yards last season out of the Wildcat formation, and freshman Jawan Jamison (5-8. 198).
"In all honesty," wrote SB Nation's Rutgers blog On The Banks," Deering is a natural receiver, but he's just so talented that not moving him to the backfield would have been criminal given the team's plethora of depth at wideout."
In conclusion, Williams has put in the time and improved as a player, but Huggins could be the most talented player on RU's roster. The two might split carries at first, but look for Schiano and new offensive coordinator, Frank Cignetti, to utilize the freshman more as the season progresses. Also, don't look past Deering, who is slowly recovering from a head injury, to make plays out of the Wildcat, while Jamison could see a carry or two to stay fresh.
"The way (offensive coordinator) Frank (Cignetti) uses the back for certain things," said Schiano I think you can (use four backs)," said Schiano Saturday. "I don't think you can give considerable carries to four guys but if there's certain things that each guy can do, I think you can."
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