No soft spot for Scott

Football

Running back prepares for increased role by getting stronger

August 23, 2008|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Sun reporter

COLLEGE PARK - For most of Da'Rel Scott's first two years with the Maryland football team, there were more rumors about his ability than public sightings.

Then came the North Carolina State game late last season.

In a 37-0 victory over the Wolfpack in Raleigh that made the Terps bowl-eligible, Scott ran for 89 yards on eight carries. Knowing that Lance Ball and Keon Lattimore were seniors, Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen and the fans were given something to think about for this season.

It also reinforced what Scott, a sophomore, thought could happen all along if he was given the opportunity to be a featured back.

"I kind of had an idea of what I could do, but that gave me more confidence in getting in the game a lot more than I was and showing the coaches what I could do when I got the ball," Scott said.

That chance might have come sooner, but Scott had gained a reputation for being injury-prone and a bit soft when it came to his threshold for pain. It didn't help that Scott's background in track seemed to enhance that widely held opinion.

"Darrius went through a little bit of that earlier," Friedgen said, referring to talented wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey. "They're like thoroughbreds. They just want to be perfect. I tell [Scott], 'Running backs are never going to be perfect.' "

Said Scott: "Coming from track and everything, you can't go on an 80 percent hamstring. In football, you've got to fight through it. That's something I had to learn being here."

If some impressive runs in spring practice made Scott the favorite at running back going into preseason camp, what he has done during the first two weeks of two-a-days has solidified his position.

It's not only what Scott has shown running the ball, but also what he has demonstrated in other phases of the game.

Friedgen said Scott's toughness and durability while trying to block sophomore linebacker Alex Wujciak has earned him respect from teammates and coaches alike. Because the Terps don't cut-block during practice, Scott has had to take on Wujciak one-on-one.

"That's a load," Friedgen said. "Go man-up, and Da'Rel has done that. Has he won all of them? No, he hasn't, but he's won his fair share. He's kind of really showed me something."

Scott said he spent a lot of time in the offseason increasing his strength and flexibility at Maryland and at home outside Philadelphia, where he works with former Olympic long jumper Antonio Davis at the Aspiring Champions training center.

"I wasn't really taking care of my body like I should have. I stretch a lot more," said Scott, who increased his bench press from 300 pounds to 340 and his squat from 470 to 550. "My legs are a lot stronger. My upper body is stronger, too. I tried to get my body right so I could take those hits and stay healthy."

There is one benefit Scott has received from the injuries he has suffered. A kinesiology major who hopes to have his own training center one day, Scott has gained an appreciation for how his body works - and how it can break down.

"Yes I have," he said with a smile. "I really started to get into the body parts, how all the muscles connect. It is really interesting."

What will also help Scott stay injury-free is improving his technique. Since he started playing football, Scott has had an upright running style, making him more susceptible to getting hit.

"My uncle always told me I ran like Eric Dickerson," Scott said.

"I can understand where Coach Friedgen is coming from because I have to stay low to take those hits. That's something I'm trying to focus [on], staying low in the hole."

A former state champion in the 100-meter dash as a high school junior, Scott has been timed as low as 4.29 seconds in the 40-yard dash. But all the speed he can muster and moves he can make won't do him any good if he can't stay on the field.

His speed gives Maryland a dimension at running back it hasn't enjoyed since Bruce Perry and Chris Downs dominated the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2001 and 2002. Scott knows the expectations for this year will be a lot higher than before.

"It's a totally different mind-set," Scott said. "I knew the role I had to play last year. I had to come in and change the game. I don't want to be a one-play guy and come out."

That isn't likely, considering the directive Friedgen gave his new offensive coordinator, James Franklin, during preseason workouts.

"I've told James, 'Get him into space and he's going to make some people miss and make some big plays,' " Friedgen said.

don.markus@baltsun.com

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