Four-star MSU recruit Scott could play right away

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

East Lansing — It's not every season a freshman has a chance to step into one of the best offenses in the Big Ten and make an immediate impact.

But that is just the position L.J. Scott could find himself in next fall at Michigan State.

The 6-foot-1, 215-pound running back from Hubbard (Ohio) High is expected to sign his letter of intent today with the Spartans and is expected to compete to replace Jeremy Langford (graduated).

Scott, however, will have his work cut out with junior Delton Williams and redshirt freshman Madre London ahead in time in the program.

"From a size standpoint, he's gonna be physically ready to compete at that level," said Allen Trieu, Midwest director of scouting for Scout.com. "And also because I think if you look back at the players that have made immediate impact in college football over the years, running back is a position where it is more common just based on the nature of the position."

And Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio never has been afraid to play a true freshman in the backfield.

He wasn't forced to use London last season because of the presence of Langford and senior Nick Hill, as well as Williams. But that came after a string of true freshmen saw time in the backfield, including Le'Veon Bell, Edwin Baker, Larry Caper and Williams.

Scott getting plenty of work this fall wouldn't surprise his high school coach, Brian Hoffman.

"I see a lot of stats on him in terms of his size and stature," Hoffman said. "But he is a legit 6-1, two-and-quarter back with good speed, and I really do believe he can come in next year and contribute."

He was good enough to become a four-star recruit and the No. 6 running back in the country, according to Rivals.com. He is the No. 7 back in the nation, according to 247sports.com and is seen as one of the top players in Ohio.

During his senior season alone, Scott ran for 2,819 yards and 38 touchdowns, going over the 100-yard mark in 13 games. He finished his four-year career with 7,476 yards and 98 touchdowns.

But it was after his first carry Hoffman knew he had something special.

"Freshman season we had him play varsity and we really weren't sure about him," Hoffman said. "About first quarter, we put him in at tailback and he cracked one for about 95, broke a number of tackles and made a number of people miss. I said to myself, and me and the other coaches looked at each other, we knew that this kid is gonna be pretty good."

From that point, plenty of people were noticing the same thing — Scott was pretty good. He had offers from most major programs, including Ohio State, Alabama and Auburn.

It was his unique combination of size and speed that was most appealing.

"I think right away you don't see a ton of backs that are 6-foot-1, 230 pounds coming out of high school that can still break some of the longer runs, can make people miss, catch the ball out of the backfield like he can," Trieu said.

"And also he still runs like a big back. He's got good balance, very strong and able to run between the tackles. He's got the special combination of skill, and he's also been extremely productive throughout his high school career."

And it was the type of production that, despite Scott's commitment to Michigan State in July, hasn't stopped others from trying to sway him on his decision.

Many believed Ohio State coach Urban Meyer would make a push for Scott, especially if Detroit Cass Tech's Mike Weber flipped from Ohio State to Michigan. But that doesn't look like it will happen. Plus, Scott never has given any indication he would be inclined to back out of his commitment to Michigan State.

"I never saw him really waver when he made that commitment from back in the summer," Hoffman said. "Other people have talked to him and he's been respectful but, really, he never showed to me that he had any interest in going anywhere else."

And assuming that commitment is backed up today with a signature, Scott could become the next standout back in the Spartans offense.

"I really think Scott is gonna be a really, really good player," ESPN national recruiting director Tom Luginbill said. "He fits the identity of their offense. That toughness, the downhill presence. That stands out to me."

mcharboneau@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/mattcharboneau