TAMPA -- After Connecticut turned his fumble into the deciding points in a tough loss last week, University of South Florida running back Darrell Scott wanted redemption.
The junior running back never got it. He was pulled him from the game and never returned.
It was a tough pill to swallow for Scott, who has added a new dimension to the Bulls running game, which has been stagnant the past few years.
Scott was disappointed, but not angry. He knows redemption is a process and has already gotten quite a bit of it by winning a starting job.
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The California product was the country’s most ballyhooed high school player when he signed with Colorado. He later was often referred to as the No. 1 bust in the national recruiting class of 2008.
Criticism seemed to follow him like a shadow, even as recently as last summer when some questioned how he could carry 240 pounds on his 6-foot-1-inch frame.
A likable, personable individual, Scott took everything in without a complaint and worked hard on the scout teams last year after he transferred to USF.
Skeptics rightfully questioned what his 146-rushing-yard performance really meant against overmatched Florida A&M earlier this season. But he seemed to be on the verge of realizing his promise with a solid 12-carry, 76-yard performance at Pittsburgh.
He had 58 yards on 13 carries against Connecticut when his fumble about midway through the third quarter was returned for a 10-yard touchdown and gave UConn what proved to be the deciding points in a 16-10 victory. He was exiled to the bench for the remainder of the game.
Scott said his fumble lost the game, though there was plenty of blame to go around with three other turnovers, numerous failed third-down conversion attempts and failure to score a point after five trips inside the UConn 35.
“My mistake was crucial, so that is why I put it on my shoulders,” Scott said. “I definitely wanted to go back in because I wanted to redeem myself. I didn’t ask. It is the coach’s decision, and I just had to ride the wave. Things didn’t pan out the way I wanted, and I just had to clear my head after the game.”
Scott said the fumbles at Pittsburgh and Connecticut were the only two of his collegiate career and he just wants to move forward.
USF head coach Skip Holtz intimated that all is forgotten with Scott and that his playing time won’t be reduced.
“We don’t have a doghouse. Darrell played 50 plays in that game and on 48 you would give him a double-plus grading,” Holtz said. “His understanding of the blocking schemes is getter better and he is hitting people and falling forward with all that power. We have two talented backs with him and Demetris Murray. We will continue to preach ball security and they will both continue to play.”
Scott believes he is not close to his potential and has a few things he needs to work on along with protecting the ball. He wants to be that breakaway runner again that wooed so many college scouts when he was in high school.
“I don’t feel that I am there yet. I can definitely improve on my open-field moves,” Scott said. “On the fumble, I didn’t tuck it all the way and somebody from the side or behind me poked it out. But I can’t let it bother me. If you do that it will put doubt in your mind when you get to the line of scrimmage and hesitate and that will mess up your game.”
With some family and friends living in Tampa, Scott said he has finally found the right place to let his talents blossom. He said the Bulls offense is the perfect fit for his style of running.
“A big thing for me now is that I am real comfortable with this offense, which is better suited for me, and I am healthy compared to when I was at Colorado,” Scott said. “I am very confident with our offensive linemen, that if one of them is supposed to go off and get the linebacker I know he will do that. I can trust in that and do what I have to do, which is hit the hole fast.
“Right now we are really trying to stay focused because we know these fans want us to win. We want to make our fans happy, but ultimately we want to make ourselves happy.”