Rutgers needs to add depth at running back

With Jawan Jamison headed to the NFL, two major questions confront the Rutgers coaching staff at the running back position this spring.

1. Is Savon Huggins capable of shouldering the load in 2013?

2. Who will provide depth at the position?

All eyes will be on Huggins when the Scarlet Knights open spring practice later this month as he gets his opportunity to earn the starting job. "He's earned that right," coach Kyle Flood said recently. Huggins served as a backup the past two seasons after arriving as one of the most highly touted players in school history. In his true freshman year, injuries curtailed his season.

Last year, Jamison beat him out for the starting job. But folks were able to get a glimpse of what Huggins is capable of when Jamison hurt his ankle late last season. What we saw was a mixed bag. Whereas Jamison surpassed 100 yards in six of the first seven games of the season, Huggins managed to do it just once when he got his chance to start.

That was a pretty big game -- 179 yards on 41 carries in a win over Cincinnati on the road. But otherwise, Huggins was not especially consistent, nor did he show an ability to make something out of nothing. The Rutgers running game collapsed when Jamison was out. Though the season didn't end the way Jamison wanted it to, he was pretty spectacular when he was at full speed.

Consider: Jamison became the third Rutgers player since 1976 to rush for 1,000 yards in a season. And he is just the seventh player at Rutgers to record a 1,000-yard season. Rutgers has played football for 144 years, so you can see why Jamison getting to 1,000 yards was a pretty big deal.

Can Huggins get there this year? Have we seen a big enough sample size in games to make a judgment one way or the other?

"We all saw what Savon can do in the Cincinnati game when given those types of reps, and I think he’s the type of running back -- because he’s a powerful, strong runner -- he’s the kind of guy who gets better as the game goes on," Flood said.

Depth is another concern. Huggins and Jamison combined for 374 of the 431 total carries Rutgers had last season. Paul James (five carries for 22 yards) and Ben Martin (10 for 48 yards) are the only other two running backs on the roster who got carries last year. Flood also mentioned Desmon Peoples, who redshirted last season, and early enrollee Dontea Ayres as having an opportunity to compete this spring.

"PJ James is a very strong runner, very good vision, and Desmon Peoples is extremely hard to tackle, so I think we’ve got some players that we think we can win with," Flood said. "Now they’re going to have to do it against better competition as we get into the spring."