Last season in the Big Ten, there were two running backs who ran over 2,000 rushing yards: J.K. Dobbins from Ohio State and Jonathan Taylor from Wisconsin. Aside from both of them, Rodney Smith from Minnesota who was the only other running back who ran for over 1,000 yards in the Big Ten.
Journey Brown from Penn State and Master Teague from Ohio State have already been tabbed as the next two star running backs coming out of the Big Ten. No question, they’re talented, but they’re not the only two running backs who check off some boxes in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Another running back to keep tabs on is Stevie Scott III from Indiana.
He’s been an impact player for the Hoosiers since he stepped foot on campus. He set the Indiana true freshman record with 228 carries for 1,1137 yards and 10 touchdowns and had six 100-yard games. During his sophomore season the expectations were high, but he didn’t necessarily shatter those expectations like some predicted. He only had 178 carries for 845 yards and 10 touchdowns. However, his season was cut short due to a knee injury against Michigan and he ended up missing two games to end the 2019 season.
Prior to Indiana, he was listed as a three-star recruit out of Christian Brothers Academy in Syracuse, New York. Originally, he had committed to Rutgers during his recruitment process. Despite having offers to Minnesota, Syracuse and others, Scott ended up un-committing from Rutgers after plenty of conversations with former Michigan running back Mike Hart.
In fact, their friendship was created years ago, even before Hart was the running backs coach at Syracuse. He would drive 10 minutes to Christian Brothers Academy to check in on Stevie, as Hart had known the Scott family since Stevie was a young kid playing offensive line for his Pop Warner team. Over the years, Hart became a mentor for Scott, and this ultimately led to an easy decision for him to flip his commitment from Rutgers to Indiana.
With the Big Ten being wide open for the top running back spot, there’s no reason to believe that Stevie Scott can’t compete for it. The 2021 NFL Draft prospect checks off plenty of boxes and could be one of the hidden gems this fall.
Decisive Jump Cut
During the 2019 season, Scott averaged 4.7 yards per carry for Indiana. Despite having a season cut short by injury, he still earned an overall grade of 77.3, per Pro Football Focus (PFF). His decisive jump cutting ability certainly helped him earn that grade. Throughout last season, there were plenty of runs where he would attempt to run through the A or B-gap and have it cluttered with defenders, but fortunately, he showcased a bevy of decisive jump cuts to get himself out of trouble.
The play above is only a gain of four or maybe five yards, but it’s the decisive cut from Scott that needs the attention. Once he gets the hand-off, he’s dialed into either A-gap, but with a talented linebacker (Penn State #11) in Micah Parsons over the top and a defensive tackle plugging the middle, Scott has to make a decision and do it quickly. He jump cuts through the B-gap to the left side and is able to gain additional yardage before being brought down by Parsons. These little runs can have a big impact on an NFL run game sustaining any type of success or consistency.
Quick Cut with Good Contact Balance
According to Sports Info Solutions (SIS), Scott had 487 yards after contact last season. Considering how he only ended up with 845 rushing yards, that’s saying something and shows how impressive he is battling through contract. Listed at 6’2″ and 231 pounds, you can see the thick overall frame that he carries when he’s running with the football in his hands.
On the play above, you’ll see Scott against Michigan State. On this run, the strong-side (right) B-gap is being penetrated by the defensive tackle, and Scott has to react quickly. He does so by cutting to his right and up-field. In the process, he’s met by a safety who coming downhill. However, he hurdles and breaks through the arm tackle before carrying another defender a few more yards before being brought down for the first down.
Aside from the jump-cutting ability that Scott has, he’s shown plenty of runs where he barrels through defenders. Another example is the play above against Northwestern. On 1st-and-10, he’s met by the safety about a yard past the line of scrimmage, but it’s no problem for him to drop his shoulder and run over the defender. With the size Scott has, there shouldn’t be much hesitation when matching up with a defensive player in the box or open field.
Something Out of Nothing — Bounces to the Outside
Running backs get a lot more love from me when they’re able to just hit the hole and go north and south. In reality, they’re not always afforded that luxury. There are plenty of runs where they have to bounce to the outside and try to create something out nothing. When watching Scott, I noticed that he doesn’t have the elusiveness that some running backs possess. In fact, he looks a bit stiff on certain runs, but he can still get to the outside, and when given an additional block on the outside, he can create something.
Watching the play above, a lot goes right for Scott. For starters, the defense swarms to the middle of the line of scrimmage and he really has nowhere to go. But he shows patience and the decisiveness to bounce the run to the outside. He should be met by the safety flying up-field to bring him down, but instead, the safety is slowed down by the turf, which allows Scott the opportunity to avoid contact and switch into a different gear before being met by a swarm of opposing helmets.
Last season, Scott had 56 first downs on his 178 carries, which was good for a 31.8 first down percentage (per Sports Info Solutions). On the play above, you’ll see Indiana against Northwestern, and they’re faced with a 2nd-and-3. In a short yardage situation like this, it would be safe to assume that he’s getting the ball and looking to bury a defender in the dirt. During this one, he does a bit of the opposite. As he bursts towards the line of scrimmage, he shows some shiftiness and jukes the defender at the second level before bursting up-field and getting another first down for the Hoosiers.
Gets Up-Field with Good Burst
Watching running backs, it’s always good to see them take what they can get. You never want to see them complicate an easy run; when you get an opening, you have to take it. For the most part, Scott showcases that ability to run north and south and not make the game more complicated than it needs to be.
On the play above, Michigan comes out with a single-high safety over the top and man coverage on the wide receivers. For Indiana, it’s a 2nd-and-8 and they’re showing a Trips Left formation with plenty of signs indicating some type of pass play. However, they give the ball to Scott and he’s given a great block by his center and plenty of room to burst up-field for the first down.
Catching Passes out of the Backfield
Through his two seasons for the Hoosiers, Scott has shown the ability to catch passes out of the backfield. During his freshman season he caught 16 passes, and last year he took another step forward with 26 receptions for 211 yards and a touchdown. With the NFL translating more to pass-heavy offenses, it’s often focused on what a running back can do on third down for their team.
From his ability to pick up blitzes with ease due to his effort and size, there will be plenty of questions in regards to what he does in the passing game out of the backfield. On the play above against Michigan State, it’s a designed swing screen to the running back. Once the ball is in his hands, he explodes off of his left foot and gets up-field quickly before being met by defenders after a gain of nine yards.
Like I’ve mentioned, there’s plenty to get excited about with the Big Ten and their running backs this year. Journey Brown and Master Teague have already been discussed ad nauseam this summer as some of the best backs in the conference and even the country. Hiding in the shadows like your favorite superhero is Stevie Scott III from Indiana.
He doesn’t have the breakaway speed that will get you drooling at the NFL Combine, but he does check a lot of boxes when it comes to scouting running backs. He needs to have another full season of health, but if there’s one thing the tape tells us on him, it’s that he’ll be as consistent as any running back in the Big Ten this year.