By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Ole Miss fans who saw Jeff Scott turn a corner and run 83 yards to the end zone, leaving the Auburn defense in his dust, might be reluctant to celebrate weight gain at the risk of lost speed.
It’s what fans didn’t see, however, that has Scott thrilled to be 10 pounds heavier.
“I’m 180 pounds. I played at 170 last year,” said Scott, the Rebels’ sophomore running back, who said he had hoped to get up to 185.
He says he’s just as fast and believes now he’s a home run threat between the tackles and not just one the edge.
“When we were watching film you could see some of the plays that I actually could have broke,” Scott said, “but a defensive end or a linebacker tackled me with one arm. If I’d have had extra weight, I actually could have broke that tackle and got in the end zone.”
As a true freshman, Scott – a native of Miami – ran by more defenders than he ran through. He finished as the Rebels’ third-leading rusher with 429 yards and three touchdowns.
He led the running backs in average gain at 6.5 yards per carry.
“Jeff brings an entirely different dimension than me and Enrique (Davis),” starting running back Brandon Bolden said. “We’re both power runners with pretty good speed. He brings a whole different speed to the game.”
While Scott is proud of his weight gain, being the little guy at 5-foot-7 has its advantages too.
“He’s shifty,” Bolden said. “He can hide behind the offensive line, run between their legs almost, and get out of their in a heartbeat. He’s just got that burst.”
While the burst helped him acclimate quickly on the field, the classroom was another matter.
Scott is the first member of his family to attend college. It took him a while to adjust to the environment.
In fact, it was after a heart-to-heart academics discussion with Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt that Nutt really began to see change.
“At the end of the fall semester I said, ‘If we’d have gone to a bowl you couldn’t have gone to the bowl,’ ” Nutt said. “That hit him hard. He’s grown up quite bit, and he’s doing a good job with his effort right now.
“He really came on in the spring and did an outstanding job of consistent with his work. We’ve tied that in to show him that as hard as he’s worked on the field, we need that same effort in the classroom.”
On the field, Scott’s long run against Auburn helped boost him to a career-high 134 yards for the night. In other games Scott was a steady complement to Bolden, who led the Rebels in rushing with 976 yards.
Scott had 74 yards on 11 carries against Fresno State, 62 on 11 against Arkansas.
He carried six times for 31 yards at LSU and also returned seven kicks for 188 yards, the second-highest single-game total in school history.
Scott returned 15 kicks for 416 yards last year, a team-best 27.7-yard average.
Scott’s special teams role is expected to include punt returns this season. He doesn’t expect much other change, except, perhaps an increase in production.
“I’ve got two seniors playing in front of me. I just want to go out and help my team in special teams, kick return, punt return and a little bit of running back,” he said.
Scott is also expected to factor into Wild Rebel plays, though Bolden will most likely be the trigger man.
Bolden likes seeing the ball in Scott’s hands.
“Once we get Jeff on the corners they have to respect that. It spreads a defense out,” he said. “They have to worry about the sweep, the toss.
“Then we can put guys like me and Enrique back in and run inside all day.”