Rutgers Running Back Preview 2012: Still Searching for the Next Ray Rice

Mark BatorAnalyst IIAugust 12, 2012

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - NOVEMBER 19:  Jawan Jamison #23 of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights runs the ball against the Cincinnati Bearcats at Rutgers Stadium on November 19, 2011 in New Brunswick, New Jersey.  (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Apart from the quarterback question, the positional battle that has garnered the most interest on the 2012 Scarlet Knights is the competition for the starting running back spot.

Named to the 2012 Preseason All-Big East Second Team (Phil Steele Publications), sophomore Savon Huggins will look to move into the starting role this season after having had his promising start in 2011 cut short. The former No. 1 recruit from the State of NJ in 2011 was highly touted, rated as a 5-star prospect [] and the No. 4 running back in the nation.

In 56 attempts, Huggins ran for 146 yards and five touchdowns last year before suffering a season-ending knee injury against South Florida in November.

"Struggling with getting hurt was tough," Huggins said about his disappointing 2011 campaign [reported by Dave Hutchinson in the Star-Ledger on]. "I never had to play hurt before."

Huggins will look to dethrone starting running back Jawan Jamison (897 yards, nine touchdowns), who showed flashes of excellence last season, including a 200-yard performance against Cincinnati. Despite a good showing in 2011, Jamison knows his starting spot is not guaranteed.

"I feel like whoever works the hardest," opined Jamison [as reported by Keith Sargent on] regarding the running back position, "and whoever can prove they can take 25 to 30 carries will get the bulk of the carries."

With talented runners like Jamison and Huggins, it is hard to imagine freshman Vince DePaola, Paul James or Desmon Peoples getting much playing time unless an injury strikes again this year.

At fullback, the Knights return sophomore Michael Burton, who is the projected starter, ahead of Sam Bergen and Paul Canevari. Canevari, a former high school teammate of quarterback Gary Nova and wide receiver Leonte Carroo, will likely redshirt in 2012. In 12 games last season, Burton had only 10 carries for 44 yards.

The Knights have secured verbal commitments from 2013 recruits Dontea Ayres and Justin Goodwin, 3-star and 2-star prospects respectively, to ensure that their backfield success will continue. But for now, coach Kyle Flood has a pleasant problem on his hands with two potential star running backs.

"Certainly in my mind right now I think we have two guys at the running back position that can both carry the ball," mused Flood [as reported by Keith Sargent on], "and both do a really good job for us."