Scott happy to have a home in Hoosier backfield

The collision was equal parts violent and indelible, a kind of moment not easily forgotten.

For Stevie Scott, it was a signal that this 6-foot-2, 236-pound freshman running back was ready to run.

It came during one sequence in the middle of last month’s fall camp, when Scott took a handoff, trucked through a defender and kept plowing his way toward a big gain.

“Everybody was like, ‘This guy can play,’” quarterback Peyton Ramsey said.

If there were any lingering questions about his place in the backfield, Scott erased them then and there. Now, after an accelerated climb through the depth chart, Scott is asserting himself as Indiana’s featured back and giving the Hoosiers the rushing presence that they desperately need.

“Stevie stepped up and answered the call,” IU coach Tom Allen said.

His 204 yards and one touchdown in Saturday’s 20-16 win over Virginia helped Indiana secure a hugely important non-conference victory, with Scott providing the gains that kept IU’s offense on track in the second half.

For a spell, it wasn’t clear that Scott would even see that side of the ball for the Hoosiers. The first time Allen watched his film, he believed Scott was a linebacker. But running backs coach Mike Hart, a longtime acquaintance of the Scott family, insisted that he begin his college career with him.

“Luckily,” Hart said. “It worked out.”

Hart was hugely influential in Scott’s decision to flip his commitment from Rutgers to Indiana last December. The IU coach grew up in the same Syracuse, N.Y., neighborhood as Scott’s father, and was well aware of Scott’s rushing exploits during his previous coaching stop at Syracuse University, which is roughly a 10-minute drive away from Scott’s high school, Christian Brothers Academy.

In fact, Hart was at the mid-September game last year when Scott suffered a foot injury that cost him the final few months of his senior season.

“I flew in to see him play,” Hart said. “He had a big touchdown run, then a couple plays later, he went down on defense. … I’ve known that family for a long time since I was younger. I’ve known about Stevie and Stevie’s known about me. I’d text him to say, ‘Keep your head up. It’ll all work out. I told him I was still gonna recruit him.”

During the recruiting process, Hart and Allen knew they wanted to offer a scholarship to Scott, but weren’t sure they’d have a spot. When one opened in early December, IU brought Scott to Bloomington on an official visit and he flipped his commitment from Rutgers to Indiana two weeks later.

“Me and Coach Hart just kept our relationship,” Scott said. “… I took my visit out here and enjoyed it, enjoyed my teammates, the atmosphere and the academics and things that they offered. I just felt this was the best move for me.”

At that time, Indiana’s plan was to get Scott on campus and figure out where he fit best. Though with IU set to sign three linebackers in its 2018 recruiting class, things were getting crowded on defense.

And with Hart’s insistence, Scott was given the opportunity to start with the ball in his hands.

“He wanted to be a running back,” Christian Brothers Academy coach Casey Brown said. “That was what he wanted in his heart.”

Across his time at Christian Brothers, Scott gradually developed into the powerful, yet patient back that IU enjoys today. He rushed for 2,500 yards and 42 touchdowns combined during his sophomore and junior seasons, recording seven 100-yard games and earning a series of offers, including overtures from hometown Syracuse, Pitt, Minnesota, Boston College and others.

“We knew we needed a big back and obviously Morgan (Ellison’s) a bigger guy, but he’s really the only one,” Allen said. “So we said, ‘Hey, let’s start him at running back and let’s just see how he does.’ Obviously, as it all played out, that’s where he’s going to stay. But it wasn’t settled. (We originally thought) if we get into a situation and he ends up being the guy that’s going to help us at linebacker then we’ll move him to linebacker if we need to. But you just don’t ever know how things are going to play out sometimes.”

Much to Allen’s approval, Scott brought a linebacker’s mentality to the backfield early in fall camp. He’s not afraid of contact, and through two games he has shown a willingness to play through hits and fall forward for additional yards.

Of Scott’s 31 carries against Virginia, only one went for negative yardage.

“Playing defense in my high school career, I always liked to hit,” Scott said. “I like the contact because you’ve got to be aggressive with football. This is an aggressive game. You can’t come in weak-minded, either. You just got to be strong and aggressive.”

And just as impressive, Scott didn’t fumble once in the wet and messy conditions Saturday night.

“Back at home, my dad always told me I seemed to play better when it was raining outside because I have to protect the ball even more,” Scott said. “I feel like actually the rain helped me protect the ball because I knew I couldn’t drop that ball.”

During Sunday’s coaches meeting, Allen used Scott as an example of the recruiting philosophy he hopes to follow in the years to come.

Find big, strong guys with versatility, Allen told his assistants. It’s a tough conference, which demands tough players.

That includes those such as Scott, who has found a home in IU’s backfield.

“We saw that he had talent,” offensive coordinator Mike DeBord said. “We saw that on film early, and when he got into training camp, yes, we saw the talent.”

23 comments

  1. Two of IU’s youngest, most exciting offensive players, RT and Scott were being considered for defensive positions. RT still is. Is that a coincidence, or does it suggest our head coach is biased and evaluates talent from a defensive coach’s perspective? Any other guys playing on defense that might make bigger contributions on offense? I’ll bet T.A. has gotten some good-natured teasing from DeBord and Hart since Saturday night’s game. Fun story!

    1. You are right about that and they wanted to ignore that the younger players last year trying to learn the plays. Given time our offense coaches are showing they are much better than critics thought. Our receivers a catching passes with fewer drops, RBs are looking better, OL is much better, we have very good freshman QBs, and the offense is doing much better despite the last deluge game.

      I don’t know how this season will turn out but I hope the team can keep it going and surprise a lot of people.

      1. I never had much criticism for Sheridan, very little for Heard. Still believe Hiller can’t make an OL mean – nasty meateaters. Hart to me is an anomaly as last year he couldn’t recognize a playmaker even if he’d been handcuffed to him. I suspect this year he has benefited from Scott being a very similar ball carrier to his own style of patience, quick feet and power. DeBord is a different story. He play calling is mediocre at best. He has very little aggressiveness during positive momentum and 0 creativity when there isn’t. Highlighted by the very vanilla use of Reese Taylor. The really bad thing is he is to old to change(just like me and that’s how I know that). Right now Hart is the only 1 I’m seeing in limbo. With the possibility that Ellison could come back would be incredibly helpful for him producing a potent B1G ground game. Go HOOSIERS!!

  2. There are many facets to coaching: player evaluations in recruiting, player development when you have them on campus, player chemistry and team building, offensive and defensive strategy and tactics. Etc. As fans we see only the tip of the iceberg. Mike Heart has always been a football stud. IU is lucky to have him! DeBord is an experienced offensive coordinator. He frees up Allen to concentrate on defense. But next year IU needs a fresh offensive guru.

    1. BP,
      One of the biggest problems we have in our society is a desire for instant gratification. Wouldn’t be a good idea to give an OC enough time to work with his “own” people who fit “his” offensive strategy rather than expect him to work miracles with what he is handed? It was very obvious even to a casual observer that DeBord did not have the personnel last year to fit the offensive scheme that he and TA wanted to install. We’re 2 games and 2 wins into this year and already you want to put him out to pasture in favor of a “fresh offensive guru.” Change for the sake of change very seldom works very well, ask our friends out in Nebraska how well it has worked for them.

      Nobody since Osborne has pleased the Nebraska faithful, problem is they have not figured out they only made 1 Tom Osborne and the new coaches have to adjust to the new realities. For the Cornhusker crowd 8 or 9 wins a year ain’t good enough for them, they want to be a perennial national contenders like the good old days. How many coaches have they been through since Osborne and how well has each change ultimately worked out for them? They keep repeating the same things, just like the past of another school we know, and expecting a different result. Last time I looked there was a definition for that.

      David Cutcliffe looked like a college offensive genius as long as he had Peyton at Tennessee and Eli at Mississippi to coach. Wasn’t long after Eli went to the NFL that Cutcliffe was let go over poor results. Took him a while but he was able to develop his system at another school with surprising success. To win at Duke in football is just as difficult as winning at any other basketball school.

      The results from this year and even next year are what we are looking for and that’s not saying DeBord shouldn’t be replaced if there’s no improvement. However, if there is improvement this year and continuing into next year, are we going to throw him out, especially if the win totals increase? Quite frankly, I don’t think DeBord intends to coach to many more years anyway. That’s not what TA brought him in to do. It’s pretty obvious TA brought him in to install an offensive system and mentality which did not exist even in the improving Wilson years. He’s here to build a basis for your “fresh Offensive guru” to take advantage of and get credit for all DeBord’s groundwork on TA’s behalf.

      1. One of the biggest problems we have in our society is a desire for instant gratification.

        That might just be the most insulting statement made to an IU Football follower/fan that I’ve ever read on this blog….With the exception of Cubs fans, IU fans define the antithesis of instant gratification. Sadly, our football history has gone from such denied “instant gratification” normal to even the sorriest odd spurts of intermittent luck and anomaly, it’s fallen into leaving fans in resignation. Our leaders abuse such resignation with no worry of accountability or appreciation respectful of whatever fan base remains.
        And now, if we are just the slightest bit anxious for a bite of prime steak after decades of hamburger helper, I do believe cutting us just a tiny bit of slack may be in order.
        You ‘elite class’ SEC people crack me up. Not to mention, it’s a lot easier to be patient with Duke or UK football when your fan base still gets a basketball team contending for national championships every other season(and not dealing with the “instant turnover gratification” of a coach like Tom Crean….lol). Wow….just wow.

        1. H4H our very CJ,
          Your statement in reference to my instant gratification remark, “That might just be the most insulting statement made to an IU Football follower/fan that I’ve ever read on this blog.” Have you ever bothered to look at your own body of work on this blog? I suspect more than few would take issue with your comment.

          That being said, my statement was in regards to giving DeBord at least a fighting chance with his own players. At least one recruiting class before making a decision about him. We had folks wanting him gone half way through his first season.

          1. I’m actually from Jesterton, Indiana. My body of work? Are we talking Frankenstein’s monster? Oh, I jest…

            I’m glad you’re familiar with my BOW(a.k.a. body of work)….Are you familiar with my curtsey? How long have you been on Scoop? I’ve been here for a very long time and I don’t recall a ‘thinkaboutit’ poster until the last few months. What was your old blogging name…? Or, are you hiding behind an old BOW? You mean you did all that reading of Harvard’s BOW while having the discipline to not chime in….ding dong?
            Jeremy does have his private club he likes to protect….Me? I just keep truckin’ along using the same insulting name with the same old inspiring posts. But no instant gratification here. Jeremy has all the power….and he makes sure I know he can exert it….while never allowing this monster any instant gratification/no moderation treats.

          2. One other thing…Don’t take any of it personally, thinkaboutit.
            I like your comments …You offer really good insights.

            In general, it is a very immediate gratification world…But in reality, the true immediate gratifications are rewards for an elite class in this country. It’s all rather relative. One man’s elite gratification of desiring a winning football program overnight is another man’s new yacht. …..and desiring a winning football program overnight.

  3. I, too, wish that DeBord would open up the play book & use the tools he’s got. I’m hoping he’s not done so yet by saving opportunities for tougher games. I remember when Coach Mallory first started at IU that he described himself as, “a meat & potatoes” type of coach. I interpreted that as meaning he was a basic Offensive coach…establish the running game, pass to the wings, but stretch the field by throwing the long ball now and again. Once he had players like Schnell, AT and receivers like Ernie Jones or Tony Buford IU opened up the offense. I believe IU has good skilled players. If the running game is working keep doing so, but I’d also like to see Coach DeBord be more creative with the talent he has available.

  4. The offensive coordinator and head coach should already be on the hot seat for not naming Dawkins as the starter. Or, more precisely, should be on the hot seat for being so stupid as to name the starter one week prior to a game against Tiny Tim University. How stupid can you be to not dishearten any of your talented quarterbacks until the eve before the game. No kid is going to quit the eve before the game. Even if he doesn’t start, you insert him into some action to give him a taste of showing his potential immediately following his earlier disappointment.
    The coaching staff should now be doubly on the hot seat for forcing the fans to wait for the second highest talent at qb in Penix. Debord? I’m bored of the whole damn mess of mishandling a qb situation which could have actually made us a deeper and more dangerous team(and able to sustain setbacks any of the three may have encountered)…I don’t buy the Dawkins’ letter ….Anyone would be severely depressed to come 2000 miles and warm pine. A very talented qb coming 2000 miles to IU Football to ride pine? Laughable. Political. Gentlemen’s club. Examples of ineptitude in leadership from the OC and the head coach.
    Penix should start against Ball State. Ruffle Ramsey’s feathers…Let him hold a clipboard(like Dawkins) and see what he’s made of….Let him dial back his “instant gratification.”

      1. How’s it goin,’ gymnast? You should know my opinions do not prefer a balance beam. Think of them as the steam out your ears needed to get a good liftoff from the vaulting horse. Now stick that landing into a comment box! 10…10…9.5….4(Harvard Judge)….10…10.

  5. Gotta have talent to execute an open offense against talented competition. I am interested in running game to go with passing since Scott and IU run game has been scouted on a good playing field. (dry field). After Ball State I also feel MSU game is must win for IU more than any other game on schedule due to the disarray at MSU. I don’t feel that way against OSU nor Purdue.

    1. It’s a sad day for IU to even share the same turf with MSU & PSU. Winning football games is all they have…and we(as a member of the BigTen) feed it. Both programs should have been shut down for a decade….if not permanently. I don’t care if abuses happened on rowing team, the big dollar programs within these institutions are where they should be hit…and hit hard. It was institutional sickness that went up to the highest levels of their universities. It was complete disregard for the well-being and protection of children and adolescents.

      And then we have OSU….? More disregard for decency and simply doing the right thing.

      The BigTen conference should be ashamed to still have all three as members.

      1. Yeah…then you have Ole Miss.

        Lots of skeletons in lots of closets. Let’s not pretend that every team in the SEC didn’t bar black players during many of our childhoods.

        Shouldn’t they be barred for life?

    2. Point being DeBord better do something aggressive and creative in play calling as Scott & Co. may not continue the rushing success they’ve enjoyed so far in the OOC schedule. If Scott would go down where does the optimism for the offense come from with his philosophy of play calling, Mike Majette carries the rushing load successfully? I don’t think it’s in him to shake things up enough from what he continually throws at the D(like running RT into the line between the tackles)(I can’t think of 1 poster on this blog being in the OC’s position who would have called that play)(and he did it twice against Va.). That’s a hope play. You call it and hope. The Q; is 7-7 really success, considering who the 7 wins were against? Fair or not he has shown me nothing in 14 games to make me think he can take IU level player talent and accomplish results equal to what Coach Allen has achieved on D with same level talent. That’s a basic truism. He’s been a top 25 OC when he has top 25 talent. That’s in concrete and the mud is drying fast that’s forming his credentials with lesser talent. I would look favorably to being wrong, if he can make it happen. There is enough skill talent there if he can figure out what to do with it. Go HOOSIERS!!!

  6. Let’s not forget, DeBord is 7-7 as IU’s OC. How man IU OCs have enjoyed that level of success in their first 14 games?

    Every Hoosier fan wants to see DeBord “open up” the playbook and fully utilize IU’s offensive weapons. Weather has probably been the primary reason they have not done so thus far. But they may also be saving some of their firepower for Big Ten competition. One thing is for sure, if T.A. wants to see Memorial Stadium full for home games, he’s going to have to produce an exciting, point scoring offense. Boring, conservative, take-no-risks offense is not exciting to watch and won’t increase attendance at home games.

  7. 7-7. So what is all the fuss? That’s head coach material at IU. Things could open up depending on qb success. I think receivers are there. And then help inside running with open ground game. I don’t look for Scott to dominate like he did on wet field and competition of first 3 games inside on dry field after being scouted without a well balanced offense.

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