You may have heard by now, but LJ Scott will not be returning to East Lansing in 2019. After only playing in four games this season — thanks to new NCAA redshirting rules — Scott had decided in early November to take a redshirt and return to the Michigan State Spartans for a fifth season. The running back has now changed his mind and plans to declare for the NFL Draft.
Scott was mostly ailed by an ankle injury in 2018, which he suffered in Week 2 against Arizona State. He struggled to stay on the field, and last played against Purdue on Oct. 27. Scott amassed just 180 yards on 55 carries (3.3 yards per attempt) with zero touchdowns. He also added seven catches for 95 yards.
Scott never broke the 1,000-yard rushing barrier as a Spartan, though he did come ever-so-close in 2016 (994 yards). He finishes his career with 586 carries for 2,271 yards (4.7 yards per attempt) and 25 touchdowns on the ground. He ranks 10th all-time in rushing yards in school history. Through the air, Scott caught 40 passes for 403 yards and two touchdowns.
The good news is that Scott did mention in his message that he will be playing in the Red Box Bowl against Oregon on Dec. 31. This will give his teammates one last chance to line up with him, and give Spartans fans a final opportunity to watch him play in green and white. Let’s all hope he comes out of the game healthy.
The tailback out of Hubbard, Ohio definitely had some great moments. Some of my favorites include his 186 yards from scrimmage and one touchdown performance against rival Michigan and its highly-vaunted defense in 2016. Last year’s Holiday Bowl where he went for 136 total yards and two scores, then announced he would be returning for his senior season. His numerous hurdles over opposing defenders. But none bigger than when a true freshman Scott reached out his arm over the goal line in the Big Ten Championship game to give the Spartans the game-winning score:
Scott’s senior season definitely did not go as he planned it, which was not ideal for him or Spartans fans, but his draft stock remains high. According to WalterFootball.com, Scott currently ranks as the No. 5 running back in the 2018 class, and is projected to get drafted in the second or third round. That seems high to me given his injury history and lack of production, but the talent and size is certainly there to entice scouts. Although, he falls all the way to No. 16, per DraftTek, but those rankings have not been updated since he made his decision to declare. Many of the other leading sources are yet to release updated rankings, so we’ll get a better feel of his draft standing later on this winter.
Without Scott in the fold, the Spartans still return a strong stable of running backs in 2019. Assuming nobody transfers, Connor Heyward, who led the team in rushing yards, and La’Darius Jefferson who was second on the team, both return. Weston Bridges and Elijah Collins who saw vey limited action in 2018 also return. Noah Sargent and Alante Thomas are likely to be on next year’s roster as well.
The Spartans are also adding a trio of freshmen tailbacks in the 2019 recruiting class: Anthony Williams Jr. (check out more on him here), Brandon Wright and Aaron Young. So while the Spartans don’t seem to have much star power at the position, they have experience and hard-nosed running in Heyward, a contributor in Jefferson, depth with the others, and perhaps a future starter/contributor within the incoming freshmen group.
Thank you to LJ, and good luck in your future endeavors. Spartan Nation will never forget you.