L.J. Scott broke onto the scene for Michigan State as a freshman running back. He quickly took over as the lead running back. Scott and Saquon Barkley were the top two freshman backs in the Big Ten, and Scott even put up comparable statistics. After a crowded backfield in 2016 and 2017, and some injuries as well, L.J. Scott is now declaring for the 2019 NFL Draft.
Spartans in the Draft: L.J. Scott
According to 247Sports, L.J. Scott was a four-star running back prospect. He was the sixth ranked running back, and the second best player in the state of Ohio. For comparison, only two of the running backs slotted higher than him are in the NFL; Ronald Jones II and Derrius Guice. The one player from Ohio that ranked higher than Scott is also still in college. Scott is right on track with where he should be at this point in his career.
Scott went to Hubbard High School in Hubbard, Ohio. According to his MaxPreps page, Scott had an insanely productive high school career. Especially as a senior, he surpassed the 100 yard mark in every game. He finished the season with 2819 yards on 9.6 yards per carry. Scott also had 38 touchdowns on the ground and presumably dominated each and every game for the Hubbard Eagles.
He was nominated as a finalist for Ohio’s Mr. Football Award. He was also named as Trumbull County Player of the Year as a senior. While he may have had high expectations as one of Michigan State’s top recruits ever, the Spartans are known to generally roll with the upperclassmen. Scott was able to change that though.
As a freshman, Scott was named to ESPN’s All-Freshman Big Ten Team. He was also named as a co-recipient of the team’s Outstanding Underclass Back Award. He was the Big Ten Freshman of the Week twice in his 2015 freshman season also.
As a sophomore the next season, Scott showed improvement. He was named to the Third-Team All-Big Ten selection by Athlon Sports and Phil Steele, and he was the recipient of the Spartan’s Outstanding Underclass Back Award. He played well against Rutgers, earning him Spartan Offensive Player of the Week honors.
Last season, as a junior, Scott was named an honorable mention to the All-Big Ten Team. After a huge game against Minnesota, he was named to the Pro Football Focus Big Ten Team of the Week. That game, he also received Spartan Offensive Player of the Week Honors.
Scott entered this season on the watchlist for the Maxwell Award, which is awarded to the top player in college, and the Doak Walker Award, handed out to the best running back in the country. Athlon Sports also named him as a preseason All-Big Ten Team Selection.
As a freshman, Scott had the most carries on the Spartan roster, he finished with one yard less than 700, and he reached the endzone 11 times. Impressively though, Scott finished with just a tad under five yards per carry, an impressive mark, especially for a freshman running back. He also had an unforgettable touchdown in the dying seconds of the Big Ten Championship.
The next season was Scott’s closest to reaching the 1000 yard milestone. Scott likely could have reached the mark with one more carry, but that wasn’t the case. He finished the season with 994 yards on 5.4 yards per carry. He reached the endzone less, but the offense was less potent in general with Tyler O’Connor rather than Connor Cook at quarterback. An increase in yards per carry though was a big step in the right direction fort he sophomore running back.
As a junior in 2017, Scott struggled in his first game of the season, fumbling twice. After a fumble two games later against Notre Dame, he began to carry a football around the locker room to practice ball protection. Scott finished the season with a fraction less than 900 yards. Scott scored eight times, but his yards per carry decreased to 4.5. There were a lot of new faces on the offensive line, and while they were by no means bad, it is still an adjustment for any running back.
This season, Scott hoped to finally reach the 1000 yard mark in his final season as a Spartan. He had the opportunity to do so with 11 returning starters on the offense, including quarterback Brian Lewerke and all but Brian Allen on the offensive line. Instead, Scott only played four games before missing the rest of the regular season with a leg injury. He returned for the RedBox Bowl against Oregon, where he had 84 yards before leaving with injury once again.
My pre-combine running back rankings are complete. Scott currently sits ninth in my rankings. It was difficult to find 2018 tape on Scott, and if tape arises of the Oregon game, the ranking is most definitely subject to change. Here’s the short on Scott though.
At times in his Spartan career, Scott has looked like former Michigan State running back Le’Veon Bell. His vision and patience on the line of scrimmage is seemingly modeled after the Pro-Bowler. He patiently waits for his blockers to get to their spot, opening up holes for him to hit.
As a junior in 2017, Scott flashed some beautiful spin moves as a running back. At 6’1 and 225 pounds, Scott can get defenders to miss. He can bait defenders into moving the wrong way and forcing missed tackles. He doesn’t drop his shoulder into going through defenders very often, but he does pick up extra yardage on a ton of carries just from using his big frame.
He’s a pretty good receiver out of the backfield, definitely someone who the defense can’t forget about. He worked on this spin move last year and had success with it. If he can continue to develop his pass catching ability it could be a difference maker for me in his ranking. pic.twitter.com/0aJce2liaP
— Max Freedman (@MaxEFreedman) May 19, 2018
My biggest issue with Scott is his agility and breakaway speed. While he’s shown his ability to use certain skills to avoid tackles, such as the spin move above, he does struggle with making defenders miss straight up. His change of pace has a lot of room for improvement. If Scott can work on his lateral agility, which would directly help his ability to make defenders miss, he can carve out a role as a starter at the next level.
Scott may not be considered a day two prospect by box score scouters, but I would beg to differ. He is going to get his opportunity at the next level without a doubt. Even if Scott cannot improve upon his agility and ability to make defenders miss, he has the frame to find a role. With his height and weight, combined with his talents at picking up extra yards after contact, he will, at the very least, become a solid third-and-short running back at the next level.
I do see Scott being more than that though, he is a good receiver out of the backfield and has the vision to succeed. An injury filled senior season may see him slide down the draft this April. At the next level though, he will likely look more like the running back that nearly reached 1000 yards in 2017 then the running back that played through injury in 2018.
Embed from Getty Images