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Monday, July 8, 2013

TOP 20: Proving it in Piscataway (No. 13)

Desmon Peoples' emergence coincides with a philosophy shift with how Rutgers runs the ball in 2013. (AP Photo)

By Tyler Barto
Twitter: Tyler_Barto

Less than a month remains until the start of Rutgers training camp. This top-20 countdown will run infrequently, documenting who's got the most to prove in 2013.

No. 13 — redshirt freshman running back Desmon Peoples (5-foot-8, 175 pounds)

Why Peoples is on the list: Peoples figures to be a prominent member of what could be a shallow backfield this season. 

The shifty tailback offers enough burst to complement penciled-in starter Savon Huggins, a straight-line runner. More important, he hasn't showcased the injury concerns that have plagued sophomore Paul James, who made two appearances a year ago.

(Courtesy of
All signs point to an offense tailored to Peoples' skill set.

Offensive coordinator Ron Prince has re-envisioned the Scarlet Knights' run scheme, which will feature far more zone blocking than years past, Huggins said. In theory, Rutgers' backs will see more outside runs, screens (which didn't work well under previous regimes) and one-on-ones in space.

It's a sign of a culture shift — however brief — in Rutgers' philosophy on running backs. Peoples will need to take advantage.

During training camp, keep an eye on: Peoples' ball carrying.

The Cheltenham, Pa., native forced private, subtle concerns about fumbles during his first training camp. Given Peoples' emergence as a potential No. 2 back, those concerns are likely a non-issue.

Still, it's worth noting, since fullback Michael Burton says he plans on being a multi-use player in 2013. With Huggins hobbled early last season, Burton figured to be former starter Jawan Jamison's emergency backup.

It was a moot point — Jamison broke a school record with 74 combined carries from Sept. 13-22. No other back earned a touch during that two-game stretch.

Still, Burton has proven dependable and more — his play after the catch reinvigorated the fullback position in Rutgers' offense.

2013 season outlook: Within a less defined backfield, Peoples will earn carries comparable to Huggins' 119 in 2012, especially since Huggins didn't appear in three games. 

He could feel a pinch in the passing game, where Burton, as a junior, could become somewhat prominent out of the backfield. Still, he'll likely be featured more prominently in that department than Huggins.

More from the countdown: No. 12 — Leonte Carroo

No. 14 — Antwan Lowery

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