Rutgers’ Dontea Ayres hopes to contribute early

By Matt Sugam

When Dontea Ayres found out Jawan Jamison had declared for the NFL draft, he had mixed emotions.

On the one hand, he was given more of an opportunity to compete for touches as a true freshman. On the other hand, he loses what could have been a valuable mentor.

“It kind of made me excited. It leaves a spot open,” Ayres told “But at the same time I kind of wanted him to stay. Steel sharpens steel. It would have been great to have him here to learn from him, to compete with him, but with him going it leaves a position open.“

Which is the back up to now incumbent starter Savon Huggins.

As one of five early-enrollees, Ayres gets to begin to showcase his skills this spring. Something Ayres plans to capitalize on.

“I can take advantage of it by coming in here every day and busting my butt in all aspects of the game. From busting my butt in the classroom, to working hard in the weight room, to training sessions, to making sure I study my playbook,” Ayres said. “In all aspects, go out to compete.”

And with Huggins, the competition has already started. And in all aspects.

“I beat him up in Madden and NCAA ’13,” Ayres quipped.

As they’ve begun to hang out on a regular basis in the last few weeks, Ayres has already forged a bond with Huggins he didn’t even anticipate.

“It’s a good relationship,” Ayres said. “It’s crazy because I didn’t expect it to be like this. I didn’t expect us to be as close as we are right now. But our relationship is strong. He’s helping me out with a lot of things and he’s not hesitant which is good.”

While the 5-foot-9, 205-pounder won’t hit the field until spring practice starts on Match 26, Huggins has already been helping him prepare for playing college football.

“He’s been guiding me with the plays. Telling me things I should look out for. The do’s and the don’ts. The things I should really put emphasis on and really focus about. Just being there for moral support,” Ayres said. “If I have any questions or concerns I go to Savon, so it’s been nice.”

And Huggins may be turning to Ayres when he needs a breather.

Despite not playing his senior year due to a knee injury, head coach Kyle Flood thinks Ayres has a chance to compete to get touches along with Desmon Peoples, Ben Martin and Paul James.

“There’s a couple spots where we’re hoping to really build competition and find out ultimately who rises to the top like the running back competition with Jawan coming out early, Savon is there as the starter, there’s not a lot of proven commodities behind him,” Flood said. “I think Dante has a unique opportunity at that position.”

Follow Matt Sugam on Twitter

Like Matt Sugam on Facebook