Ole Miss Football is exploding right now, and so too is its 5'7'', 162-pound running back Jeff Scott.
Only three games into the season, the Archbishop-Carroll High School (Miami, FL) product has amassed 330 yards on the ground, 89 yards on punt returns and 36 yards through the air. Due in large part to Scott's enhanced production this fall, the No. 21 Rebels are undefeated and 1-0 in the SEC.
If he were to stay on pace with his current output through the final nine regular season contests (not to mention a bowl game), the senior speedster would rack up 1,320 yards rushing, 144 yards receiving and 356 punt return yards. Based upon that projection, Scott would finish with 1,820 all-purpose yards in 2013 (not even considering the time or two he'll likely throw the ball).
That's big time. Particularly big time for a player of his deceiving stature.
As much as he's rising on the all-time charts at Ole Miss, currently No. 4 in career all-purpose yards (3,421) and No. 8 in career rushing yards (2,134), Scott remains focused on winning above everything.
When we talked about his ascension on the charts, the senior said:
I don’t think about them (record books) much, but the coaches and fans bring it to my attention. It’s a huge honor. I feel like the years that I’ve been here, they’re starting to pay off. But at the end of the day, what’s most important to me is winning games.
While Ole Miss currently ranks No. 25 nationally in rushing offense, individually Scott sits at No. 18 (110 YPG). Further, the senior's average of 151.7 all-purpose yards per game ranks No. 5 in the SEC.
This weekend, Scott and his teammates find an opportune open week in their schedule before traveling to Tuscaloosa on September 28 for a date with No. 1 Alabama.
Trending in the Right Direction
A member of former Rebel head coach Houston Nutt's 2010 recruiting class, oddly Scott was a player that didn't garner very much of national attention coming out of high school.
During his freshman year in Oxford, playing behind RB Brandon Bolden, Scott ran the ball 66 times for 529 yards and three touchdowns. The highlight of the year was 134 yards rushing against eventual national champion Auburn, including an epic 83-yard score.
As a sophomore in 2011, Scott would stall a bit, only rushing for 529 yards on 116 carries. His rushing yards per attempt dropped from 6.5 yards per carry in 2010 to 4.6 yards per carry in 2011. However, he did account for six rushing scores on the season.
Then last year in Hugh Freeze's inaugural season at Ole Miss, Scott's workload increased significantly.
He rushed nearly 200 times (197) for 846 yards and six touchdowns. In addition, the junior caught a career-high 23 passes for 177 yards and a score. Offensive coordinator Dan Werner knew what a player like Scott could bring to the table, and is doing his best to help Scott maximize his potential.
The senior is also doing all he can to help younger backs like sophomores Jaylen Walton and I'Tavius Mathers prepare themselves for when it's their time to shine. Scott said of the two sophomores, "I’ve been impressed with both of them, and look forward to them seeing more carries."
When asked what advice he would give the younger backs in Oxford, Scott suggested:
Be patient, Your time will come. They have two years left. Coach Nix is always trying to coach them up, and I try and add to it. I coach them the best I can, so that they won’t make some of the same mistakes I may have made when I was in their shoes.
Now early into the 2013 season, the senior leader is playing like a man on a mission.
Most remarkable is his 9.4 yards per carry average this fall, over twice what it was in 2012 (4.3).
What's the diminutive back done in the fourth quarter this season? Just carried the ball seven times for 157 yards and an 22.4 yard average per rush. That's a big-time number by a big-time player when games have mattered most. In 2013, he's making the most of every time his number is called.
The Next Three for Scott
Through the first three contests of the fall, Scott has broken on to the national scene.
After an open date this weekend, the Rebels will travel to Alabama for a date with the Tide. Last season, Ole Miss fell 33-14 on the road in a game that was closer that the score indicates. He carried the ball 19 times for 49 yards during that contest.
That being said, the Tide run D currently ranks No. 10 in the SEC in 2013 (allowing 158.5 YPG).
The following Saturday, Ole Miss makes its way to the Plain of Auburn to face another beleaguered run defense. Yielding 157.3 yards per contest on the ground, the Tigers rank No. 9 in SEC run defense.
Finally returning to the friendly confines of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on October 12, after having played four of their first five on the road, Scott will get his shot against the worst rushing defense in the conference in Texas A&M (allowing 260 YPG on the ground).
Against these same three clubs in 2012, Scott rushed 63 times for 294 yards (4.7 YPG) and two scores.
Knowing that and knowing how well he's playing this fall, there is a good chance he improves upon his numbers against Alabama, Auburn and A&M in the weeks ahead.
Despite the fact that Scott increased both his workload and production last year in Freeze's system, the senior feels like he's now much more prepared each time he takes the field:
Last year was our first year in the new scheme, so it wasn’t that clear to everyone. This year in our second year, everyone is a little bit more confident. We’ve learned the blocking schemes and what the coaches want out of us. When you understand not only your job, but the guy's next to you, it makes things a whole lot easier.
The Best May Be Yet to Come
As incredible as he's been thus far in 2013, Scott's best days may actually be ahead of him.
That's right. Let me explain.
When asked where he feels this offense is after three games this fall, Scott told me:
We’re still early in the season, but as the weeks go on we’re going to continue to get better. With guys like Itavius and Vince getting back in the mix, it’s just going to make us that much better on offense. When we have all hands on deck, the sky’s the limit for this team. The sky's the limit.
The Rebel offensive juggernaut, and it is just that, has weapons galore to choose from each series.
Averaging 490 yards of offense per game, Ole Miss ranks 33rd nationally in total offense.
Coming back from offseason shoulder surgery, Wallace has looked back to his old self thus far with a 64.4-percent completion percentage, 648 yards passing, 149 yards rushing and seven scores. While wide receivers Donte Moncrief and Ja-Mes Logan have been familiar faces on offense, that's about it.
The team's two leading receivers heading into the Alabama game are two true freshman phenoms (TE Evan Engram and WR Laquon Treadwell) who will only finesse their games more each week. Further, WR Vince Sanders has been sidelined with an injury. By the time September 28 arrives, Wallace should have in Engram, Treadwell, Moncrief, Logan, Sanders and the Wes Welker-esque Jordan Holder.
The more explosive and experienced the passing attack becomes each Saturday (attracting even more defensive attention), the more opportunities will open up for Scott to reel off some of the same huge runs we've seen over the first three games.
As for the Rebel running game outside of Scott, QBs Wallace and Barry Brunetti have combined to rush 53 times for 291 yards (5.5. YPC) and six touchdowns. When his number has been called this year, Brunetti has taken care of business in solid fashion. He's become a key element of the offense.
However, there hasn't been a lot of production behind Scott by true running backs yet in 2013.
If Mathers (ankle) returns to full form as is expected at Bama, a combined 15 to 20 carries per game between he and Walton would lessen the workload on Scott. With a slightly reduced workload, his legs would be even fresher in fourth quarters.
The Sky is the Limit
In a senior year in which he can help the Rebels do something special, Scott has the opportunity to leave a true mark on the storied Ole Miss program.
He knows it, too, stating, "This is it for me. It’s my senior year. I wanna go out on top. If we go out there and play all 60 minutes, the sky’s the limit."
After the Texas win, Scott's 2,134 career rushing yards is only 927 yards from supplanting Rebel great Deuce McAlister. To achieve the feat, the senior would need to average 103 yards per game for the rest of the regular season.
In terms of all-purpose career yardage, the shifty back is now only 1,469 yards away from passing McAlister as the all-time leader in that category at Ole Miss. Scott would need to average just over 163 all-purpose yards through the regular season to eclipse McAlister.
Beyond the legacy he can leave in the history books, Scott is drawing well-deserved attention from NFL scouts. If he can stay healthy and stay driven to succeed each and every week, the sky is truly the limit for one of the smallest guys on the field.
Based on what he's shown thus far, there's no reason to believe he won't be playing on Sundays.
In the meantime, Scott remains focused on doing all he can to make a great year a truly special one for his Ole Miss Rebels.
All quotes obtained first hand, unless unless otherwise noted.
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