Redshirt For LJ? That'd Be A Great Move

Redshirt For LJ? That'd Be A Great Move

Columnists

Redshirt For LJ? That'd Be A Great Move

Michigan State’s running back LJ Scott has had a frustrating senior year due to nagging injuries that have kept him off the field for much of the season. Imagine the 2019 Spartans’ ability to get back to pounding the ball with a healthy and motivated LJ thanks to a redshirt…

Contact @crowleysullivan

Heading into this season, one thing seemed clear to all Spartans: LJ Scott was going to demonstrate that the magic and power that he brought on that Big Ten Championship clinching run against Iowa back in 2015 was going to return.

LJ Scott burst on the scene during that 2015 Big Ten Championship and College Football Playoff season by plowing over defenders all season long.

As a freshman that year, LJ led the Spartans in rushing with 699 yards on 146 carries (4.8 yards per carry) and 11 touchdowns as a member of one of the program’s most prolific offenses in its history.

That earth-shattering score against Iowa in the waning moments of that epic Big Ten Championship game had Spartan fans ecstatic not just about the fact that the run sent the Spartans to the College Football Playoff – Spartans everywhere were thrilled at the idea of Scott being the second coming of Le’Veon Bell or Lorenzo White.

LJ followed up his freshman year with what was probably his best season as a Spartan.

As a sophomore in 2016, Scott gained 994 yards on 184 carries with 7 touchdowns – and his yards-per-carry were a very impressive 5.4 for a team that spiraled downward to a 3-9 season.

Last season, LJ led Michigan State in rushing for the third straight season by gaining 898 yards on 201 carries and he developed into a good option as a receiver out of the backfield.

There was, of course, a flirtation with the NFL – but, LJ made it clear almost immediately after the Holiday Bowl victory over Washington State that he was coming back to Michigan State to finish his business, show everyone he didn’t have fumblitis, help the Spartans win another Big Ten Championship, and enhance his status as an NFL prospect.

Eight games into this season, LJ has had his most frustrating season since he came to East Lansing due to a nagging ankle injury he suffered in the second game of the year at Arizona State.

Scott has missed five games.

And when he’s played, he hasn’t been close to the LJ that made Spartan Nation erupt when he powered the ball over the goal line against Iowa back when he was a freshman battering ram.

In the moments he’s been on the field since the injury sustained against Arizona State, it’s been clear that he’s not been able to cut with the force he once had and, perhaps most noticeably, he hasn’t had that ability to turn upfield and crank it into LJ gear and ram through, around, and over would-be tacklers.

And so, all of a sudden, a pretty reasonable – albeit surprising – question has arisen:

Since LJ has only played in four games and the new NCAA rules would allow him to take this season as a redshirt year, should Mark Dantonio put that redshirt on LJ and have him back again next year?

Dantonio was asked this week about that previously unforeseen option.

“We have to see where he’s at in terms of his injury, and sort of go from there,” Dantonio said Tuesday, after saying his status is week-to-week on Sunday. “He’s only played in four games, so there’s a possibility of redshirting him. We have to look at those different things as we go and we’ll see how it all shakes out and I’ll talk with him this week and we’ll see what happens.”

Michigan State – with a patchwork offensive line and a running back rotation featuring everyone but LJ Scott – has managed to fight its way to a 6-3, 4-2 record and has a very legitimate shot at beating Ohio State this Saturday behind a Spartan defense that has been playing like a Top 10 or even a Top 5 defense over the last handful of weeks.

The point – Michigan State has come this far this season without LJ, why not let him fully recover and bring him back for what is already setting up to be another promising season in 2019?

Can Connor Heyward and La’Darius Jefferson carry the load against the Buckeyes?

Aside from the loss to Michigan, they’ve been more than serviceable for the last four or five games.

Against Maryland, Brian Lewerke showed, for the first time all season, that he hasn’t forgotten how to take off and run with the ball when the opportunity arises.

This offense isn’t going to all of a sudden turn into the 2015 Spartan offense.

This team is going to need to be opportunistic with its entire offensive approach, continue to get Matt Coghlin opportunities to put points up on the board, utilize its tight ends, and break a few big plays out here and there.

It can do all of those things over the remainder of this season.

It can do those things without LJ – while he heals completely and begins to direct his focus on destroying opponents, once and for all, in 2019.

What a boost it would be – both practically and psychologically – for the entire football program to know that LJ Scott would be coming back for another season.

If Michigan State is capable of finding a way to beat Penn State in dramatic on the road, I’d like to think the Spartans can “find a way” to beat a beatable Ohio State in East Lansing without LJ.

And, while it’s hard to apply a strategic thought process in such a long term way, imagine next season’s Spartans heading into Columbus on October 5th with a healthy and forceful LJ Scott in uniform.

Imagine a healthy and fired up LJ Scott plowing over people at Madison next October 12th.

Imagine a healthy and motivated LJ Scott warming up at midfield in Ann Arbor coincidentally while The Circus runs out of the tunnel and jumps up and touches that banner that used to make Bob Ufer cry on November 16th of next year.

Let Heyward, Jefferson, Bridges, Lewerke, Rosenthal, Nailor, and anyone else in uniform carry the ball the rest of the way this season as the Spartans work to chalk up the 7th double-digit win season in the last 9 years.

And give LJ the ball 30 times a game next season – including one in the waning moments of another Big Ten Championship game.

Latest

More SpartansWire
Home