Stevie Scott had a huge freshman season in 2018. (Bobby Ellis | Getty Images)

Stevie Scott’s Improbable One Year Run to the Top of the NCAA Rushing Charts

Three games into his senior year of high school, Stevie Scott seemed a long way from being one of the top running backs in the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision.

And at least on the surface, Indiana wasn’t in the picture at all.

Now three games into his freshman season of college football, Scott has put the country on notice — and he’s doing it from Bloomington.  My how things have changed since Scott suffered a season and high school career ending foot injury just about a year ago during week three of his final high school season.

Scott, a Rutgers commit at the time, had run for more than 2,500 yards and 42 TDs during his sophomore and junior seasons at the Christian Brothers Academy.

In August just before the start of his senior season of high school, the Syracuse, New York, native had spurned his hometown school as well as Boston College, Purdue and others to play for the Scarlet Knights.  At the time Scott had indicated that while he wanted a new experience away from his hometown, he still wanted to be close enough to play in front of friends and family.

There Bloomington sat, 700 miles away — and entirely out of the picture.  Or so it seemed.

When Scott had committed to Rutgers, their head coach Chris Ash referred to the news as “a shock.”  Perhaps that sentiment could have been viewed as a sign of things to come.

Somehow, between that August 2017 Rutgers commitment, the September foot injury, and the December recruiting early signing period, Indiana went from ostensibly off the map to securing Scott’s commitment just days after he decommitted from Rutgers.

The person who helped bridge that gap can be seen in Scott’s Twitter announcement photo.  At the top-left is IU running backs coach and Syracuse native Mike Hart.  As several outlets have reported over the last week, Hart was integral in having the relationship with Scott and leading him to Bloomington.

But that’s only part one of the improbable journey that led Scott to where he is now — the eighth leading rusher in the NCAA Division I FBS.

Stealing Scott away from a conference foe was viewed as a nice win for Indiana, but no one could have predicted where he would be less than a year later.  Ranked as a three-star recruit and the 89th-best running back in the country according to the 247Sports composite, the power back wasn’t widely expected to be a day one contributor.  Few freshmen running backs are, but in Indiana’s case the climb to see playing time in year one seemed nearly insurmountable.

When Scott signed with IU in December, the Hoosier depth chart at running back looked something like this:

  • Morgan Ellison
  • Cole Gest
  • Mike Majette
  • Ricky Brookins
  • Devonte Williams
  • Ronnie Walker
  • Stevie Scott

Forgive us if the order isn’t just right, but you can at least see why some were viewing Scott as a linebacker in college, a position he also played in high school.  Ellison and Gest both had big freshmen seasons and were viewed as the future of the IU backfield.

You know the story since then — Ellison is suspended, Gest is lost for the season to injury, Williams transfers (along with Tyler Natee and Alex Rodriguez who transferred before Scott’s commitment).

Despite the obstacles to see the field, by August it was becoming clear that there was something special about this kid from New York.

The 6-foot-2, 236 pound Scott was a name that was generating buzz throughout fall camp.  It was his performance there that propelled him above the best of the rest on the running back depth chart.  A self-described downhill runner, Scott earned a reputation in the preseason for laying hits on defensive backs and always playing hard.

The improbable journey has continued into the season as well.  In week one against Florida International, Scott was thrown into the fire after Gest was injured.  The transformation from injured Rutgers commit staying closer to home, to buried in the IU depth chart, to starter was complete — in less than one year.

At times against FIU he seemed to be forcing the action and not exhibiting the necessary patience to wait for holes to open.  A week later in the pouring rain in Bloomington, he made a splash with a 204 yard outburst against Virginia.

While he showed better patience on the field in week two, it has become clear that Scott has zero patience when it comes to flipping the script.  He certainly knows how to take advantage of an opportunity — which has led him to the seventh most carries in the nation, running behind the strength of this Indiana football team.

Scott is ahead of his years in more ways than just his imposing physique and abilities as a running back.  When asked about what he saw on film to help him prepare before a second consecutive 100 yard performance in the victory over Ball State, he knew exactly where to lay the credit:

“Once the line creates holes, just explode through them really, it’s just the line really blocking for me.”

He had mentioned his veteran offensive line several times prior to that comment as well, and with good reason.

The Big Ten’s second leading rusher rarely encounters a defender in the backfield, and typically has his big frame moving downhill three or four yards past the line of scrimmage before he encounters a clean tackler.  The credit there goes in large part to his friends up front.

At that point, it’s advantage Scott, as tackling his massive, fast moving frame becomes highly unlikely.  But not as improbable as the journey that put him there in the first place.


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