Proving Ground

Jeff Scott has had a lot to prove this season. Basically, he's done it.


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Is he durable for the long haul? Can he pick up yards between the tackles? Can he be a featured back?

Some of his opportunities this season came as a result of injuries to Brandon Bolden and Enrique Davis. Scott was going to be in the mix. Another question arises though. How much so?

The 5-foot-7, 175-pound running back from Miami feels good about how things have gone so far for him.

"I think I'm where I'm supposed to be, but I think I can get better," said Scott, who has 350 yards rushing on 68 carries, averaging 5.1 yards per carry along with five rushing touchdowns so far.

Scott knows all the questions. He's been asked them before. Many times.

"Like my pass protection," he said. "Everybody had the big question, and it was can Jeff Scott pass protect? Or can he run up in the middle? So far, I think I proved that. But I think I have to do that again. As the season goes by, I just have to maintain and get better."

Scott particularly referred to his game at Fresno State, a 38-28 Ole Miss win last Saturday night. He carried the football 24 times for 138 yards and two touchdowns, with a long run of 69 yards for a third-quarter score.

He hasn't just been rushing the football. Answering the questions about durability has also been the fact that he's an important kickoff and punt returner for the Rebels.

He returned two kickoffs for 44 yards and caught one pass for 24 yards at Fresno.

On the season, Scott has six punt returns, one for a touchdown, and 10 kickoff returns. He's caught nine passes for 60 yards.


Jeff Scott
Bruce Newman

He's passing the durability test, the dependability test, and the effectiveness test. He does admit, however, after a game like last Saturday night, he's a little worn down. But not too much.

"I actually felt pretty good. I mean, I was pretty sore," he said. "I got a couple of bumps and bruises. But I'm alright."

He likes the way he handled the running chores in California. He also is well aware of what's dead ahead.

"I definitely think I proved a point (running between the tackles at Fresno State)," he said. "I mean, it was Fresno State, and I still feel like I have to come again. We're playing a much bigger team, a high-ranked team, Alabama. They've got linebackers that are about 6-4 or 6-5, 250 pounds. So I still feel like I have to prove it again."

The Rebels have an open date this weekend. Scott said it's welcomed for a lot of reasons.

"I definitely think so," he said of the bye coming at a good time for the 2-3 Rebels, who are 0-2 in Southeastern Conference play. "We got a few key guys on defense and on offense that's pretty hurt or whatever. So that gives us that extra time to recover."

They'll need to be at full strength. The Crimson Tide, in Oxford on Oct. 15 for a 5 p.m. ESPN2 game, is the best team in the country by many accounts. Scott said he hasn't seen them play, but he is learning about them daily.

"I was actually walking by a television when they were playing Arkansas, and I saw they were beating them up pretty bad," he said of the Tide's lopsided win against the Razorbacks.

Film-watching has become a key component for Scott, who admitted as a freshman he didn't focus on that aspect of preparation.

"Actually (I'm watching film) a lot more," Scott said. "Last year I didn't come here not one time to watch film. I just came out here and practiced and in our meeting rooms. They told me and gave me little packages of what I had to do. And I just came out here and I just did it. It helps a lot (watching film). Just looking at the defense, seeing where their best players are out on the field, where are their strengths, where are their weaknesses. I mean, it helps a lot.

"I don't really like to go in and watch film by myself. I like to go in there with somebody like Brandon Bolden or Coach (Derrick) Nix. They actually teach me how to watch film."

Scott said he sees the Rebel running game continuing to improve as the offensive line steps up.

"I definitely think the offensive line is playing better. Last week against Fresno State, that was a big confidence game for them. I see they made a few adjustments on the offensive line. So every week I see them getting better."

And that can only mean good things for the durability of Jeff Scott. The oft-questioned durability he appears to be putting to rest game by game this season.