Some speculation has Mike Blakely going to the University of South Florida. If he does, the Manatee High product will meet Darrell Scott, who epitomizes the plight of a college running back more than anyone else in the last decade.
The two ball carriers have a lot to share.
Mr. Blakely, ex-Gator of nearly a week, meet Mr. Scott, longtime ex-superstar.
Even if Blakely doesn’t go to USF, this conversation seems worth his while.
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In 2008, Scott was rated the best high school running back in the country. At 6-foot-2, 215 pounds, he had the speed and power every coach covets.
Scott had gotten so big the New York Times sent a reporter to his home in California to chronicle the last events leading up to his signing a national letter of intent.
It should be required reading for every college football recruit.
Texas, LSU, UCLA and Colorado were his final four. He had made a private commitment to the Longhorns two weeks prior, but when the Texas running backs coach took a different position at the school, Scott backed off.
He eliminated LSU because the school didn’t spend enough time recruiting him, which is a common theme. UCLA was scratched because he didn’t know new coach Rick Neuheisel well enough.
Less than two days before signing, Scott decided on Colorado, but it wasn’t over.
Scott’s main recruiter at Texas made a last-ditch effort and told him the Longhorns would call more running plays and that Scott could win the Heisman. He received text messages from Texas quarterback Colt McCoy and from USC quarterback Mark Sanchez. The heat was on, but Scott stuck to his guns and signed with the Buffaloes.
The rest unfortunately is history.
Scott had two unproductive years at Colorado and became a target of uncomplimentary remarks and stories regarding his work ethic, talent and inability to deal with nagging injuries.
He left, and Colorado coach Dan Hawkins has since been fired.
Scott sat out last year at USF due to transfer rules and has two seasons left. He is being compared to Sarasota High product Mike Ford, which would make anyone uneasy.
Ford signed with USF amid hullabaloo that the Bulls had found their savior. He never lived up to his billing and was booted out of the program prior to his senior year for a violation of team rules.
Bryce Brown was the top-rated high school running back in 2009. He went to Tennessee, where he was reportedly unhappy in a backup role and has transferred to Kansas State.
James Aldridge was a five-star running back who finished his career at Notre Dame with fewer than 1,000 yards and went undrafted.
Emmanuel Moody never realized his goals at Florida after transferring from USC, where he was Pac 10 Conference Freshman of the Year in 2006 and on the cover of Sports Illustrated prior to the 07 season.
Moody felt slighted after injuries pushed him down the depth chart at USC. Unfortunately, he never realized his potential in Urban Meyer’s spread offense.
Blakely and Scott are both on the list of disappointed running backs that stretches across the country.
Part of the dilemma is that college football coaches believe you can never have enough running backs, even if that creates unhappiness. They stockpile running backs, believing it’s easier to deal with hurt egos than being forced to hold auditions when injuries deplete all your ball carriers.
But there are feel good stories. Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson, who set the NFL single-season rushing record in 2009, is a perfect example, which brings us back to USF.
He was a forgotten, lowly tw- star running back out of Orlando’s Olympia High in 2004, whose only I-A offers were from East Carolina and Connecticut.
Most colleges wanted him as a receiver or defensive back. ECU said he could play running back, and he jumped at the chance. Skip Holtz took over the program after Johnson’s freshmen season, and the two have been tied together since.
Now head man at USF, Holtz has a great recruiting tool, particularly for running backs. He is credited for helping Johnson become a star and giving him a chance to be one of the best all-purpose backs in college football history.
A few more successes and Holtz could be anointed the reclamation coach.
Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 745-2112.