LJ Scott’s decision to stick around for his senior season says everything we need to know about this tank’s intentions for 2018.
There is an argument to be made that if LJ Scott hadn’t fumbled the ball through the endzone in the second quarter of the early season clunker against Notre Dame in 2017, the Spartans might have had a College Football Playoff berth on the line when they marched into Columbus to face the Buckeyes in November.
Of course, whether LJ fumbled that ball through the endzone or not, it’s still pretty safe to say that the Buckeyes would have handed Michigan State its lunch that afternoon.
But the point is this – despite that fumble and the other fumbles that have labeled LJ Scott as a guy who puts the ball on the ground a lot, this Spartan wrecking machine chose to bypass the NFL Draft in order to set things right with his own legacy and help lead this program to another magical season in 2018.
After an impressive freshman regular season, LJ secured his spot in Michigan State football history with his heroic battle to reach the endzone with the Big Ten Championship on the line against Iowa.
In this moment, Spartan fans saw more than a trip to the College Football Playoff become a reality – everyone in Green & White saw visions of a four year career filled with rumbles and rips featuring the destruction of opposing defenses that would make people think Le’Veon Bell had returned to East Lansing.
While LJ certainly has had flashes of excellence, it’s not inaccurate to point to moments of disappointment that might serve as the most important motivational component for the senior-to-be as he eyes cementing a Spartan legacy of greatness and a future in the NFL.
Let’s consider the statistics that tell the story of LJ’s performance as a Spartan through three seasons:
Over his freshman season, Scott played in all thirteen games and was a key part of the program’s Big Ten Championship and College Football Playoff appearance. He totaled 699 yards on the ground and recorded 11 touchdowns – with that one touchdown in the final minute of the Big Ten Championship game securing his spot in the annals of Spartan football, of course.
During his sophomore season, LJ was one of the only bright spots during the 3-9 disaster when he ran for 994 yards while playing in all twelve games, starting ten of those games.
Last season – one that many believed would be LJ’s last as a Spartan before heading to the NFL – Scott ran for a total of 554 yards over eight games.
The yards gained on the ground over his three years aren’t going to make anyone’s eyes pop out.
But take a look at the yards per carry over each season and averaged out over the three seasons:
2015 – 4.8 yards per carry.
2016 – 5.4 yards per carry.
2017 – 4.4 yards per carry.
Three season average – 4.9 yards per carry.
Give the ball to LJ Scott and you’re going to get five yards from the guy.
We’ll take a good look at this season’s offensive line soon – but, for now, let’s speculate that Mark Staten is going to have, perhaps, his mightiest and deepest line and that line is going to create room for LJ to run.
LJ Scott is listed at 6’1″, 230 pounds.
When Le’Veon Bell was punishing defenses as a Spartan, he was listed at 6’2″, 237 pounds.
It says right here that LJ Scott will tip the scales at 235 when he shows up for Fall camp this coming August – and those five extra pounds won’t be the result of too many late night cheese breadsticks from Bilbo’s.
Ah – but there has been a bugaboo.
2015 – 3 fumbles.
2016 – 2 fumbles.
2017 – 5 fumbles.
There is room to suggest that the fumble label is a bit over played – but that’s not really going to fly.
The fumbles have been an issue.
But isn’t it reasonable to take a good, hard look at the way LJ Scott performed as a freshman on that epic game-winning drive in the Big Ten Championship against Iowa in 2015?
The drive has been examined and re-examined often – but it’s worth emphasizing LJ’s role on the drive.
Over the 22 play, 82-yard march, LJ Scott was handed the ball 12 times and he ran for 40 of the hardest yards a Big Ten running back has gained in ages.
Of course, that final run by LJ will forever live on in the minds and hearts of Spartans everywhere not only because he reached pay dirt – but because of the way in which he used toughness and determination to plow through defenders in the most pressure-packed moment he’s faced as a football player.
The guy can hold on to the football.
He knows all about the fumbles.
And it shouldn’t surprise anyone if he finishes the 2018 season without fumbling the football once.
The guy is stronger, bigger, tougher, and more determined now than he was in that moment when he carried the program on his back as he hoisted the ball over the goal line against Iowa when everything was at stake.
The guy wants to show the Spartan Nation that he’s worthy of being mentioned alongside Lorenzo White, Le’Veon Bell, and so many other speedy tanks that have been responsible for great Spartan moments and championships prior to achieving greatness in the NFL.
And here’s an intangible that warrants attention –
LJ Scott has what we can call enthusiastic confidence in himself.
A guy like Malik McDowell had what we can call cocky arrogance.
LJ isn’t ever going to be confused with a guy like Malik McDowell.
But LJ isn’t shy about himself and what he’s capable of.
As he continues to prepare for his senior season as a Spartan and as he continues to see everything that’s possible for him and his teammates, it’s entirely possible that his smile starts to turn to a look of toughness, determination, and focus.
I wouldn’t want to be a linebacker with LJ Scott gaining steam as he powers towards me this coming season…