By Matt Sugam
PISCATAWAY – As Rutgers’ began its season, the thought was they’d feature two running backs in Jawan Jamison and Savon Huggins that would split carries. But after Savon Huggins injured his lower leg in the second game of the season against Howard and missed the next two games, Jamison ran away with the job as the workhorse running back.
Then it was Jamison who got hurt, spraining his ankle against Syracuse, which limited him this past week against Cincinnati. In turn, Huggins got a bulk of the carries for the first time in his career, rushing for 179 yards on 41 carries.
“I got more reps than I usually do,” Huggins said. “And I made the most of what I had.”
Now, Rutgers has what they thought they had at the end of training camp.
“It’s the same as it was at the beginning of the season before he got hurt. We’ll split,” Jamison said. “And that will actually be better on both of us – both of our bodies.”
It’s something Jamison – who is 10 yards shy of becoming Rutgers third 1,000 yard rusher in the last 36 years – is actually quite content with. That’s because by carrying less of the load, Jamison feels he can be more effective.
“I’ll be more rested. I’ll be able to give 100% on each play versus going, going , going, getting tired and having to keep going,” Jamsion said. “Coming out and getting a break and going back in, I’ll be 100% on each play out there and fresher, giving more effort.”
However, when in the game, the duo’s running styles are quite different. Huggins will run through your arms, or over you. Jamison on the other hand makes you miss by stopping on a dime and juking a defender out of his shoes.
Despite that, head coach Kyle Flood feels the two backs complement each other.
“They’re both high‑level players. If you have two guys with different running styles and one wasn’t as good a player, I don’t know that they’d be as good a complement,” Flood said. “What makes them complementary backs is they’re both capable of having a good day, and it allows you to keep a fresh running back in the game all the time.”
Of course, Flood wouldn’t have that luxury had Huggins not had his breakthrough performance.
But it was something the former No. 1 recruit in New Jersey had been waiting for. And one he knew he’d capitalize on.
“I knew if I got my opportunity I was going to take full advantage of it and I feel like I did.”
Now, Huggins will become more of a contributor, all the while knowing with a healthy Jamison, he won’t be the feature back. Something he too, is ok with.
“Whatever my role is,” Huggins said. “If I have to take fewer carries with Jawan coming back, so be it.”
Which on the surface seems like it wouldn’t be much of an issue. But both backs have said the more carries they have, the more into the flow of the game they get, and the better they do.
It’s something Flood knows, but doesn’t expect it to be the reason to diminish either player’s role.
“Other than maybe the first or second game, this might be as close as we’ve been to being able to keep a really talented, fresh running back in the game and then the other part of that that’s a little bit tricky when you get into games is that you want get into a rhythm as well,” Flood said. “So that plays into it a little bit, but I do feel Jawan’s role will be bigger this week than it was last week.”