Can Stevie Scott III run Indiana to football glory?

Stevie Scott III came to Indiana to be part of a football renaissance, to stamp his name on a new generation of Hoosier success.

He resisted the siren song of his hometown Syracuse University’s wooing, the appeal made to join its grand tradition of running backs such as Jimmy Brown, Ernie Davis, Floyd Little and others.

Bloomington won the sweepstakes, and the marriage of Scott and IU has produced the kind of dividend the player and the program envisioned.

Two years into the connection, Scott has about 2,000 yards rushing and 20 touchdowns, the 2019 team finished 8-5, earned its first national ranking in 25 years and competed in a bowl game.

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It also generated more on-campus buzz than the Kinsey Institute, proving a winning college football team can instigate as much excitement as sex, drugs and rock and roll.

"That was one of my goals for coming to IU," Scott said. "It was just changing the program around. I saw the program heading in the right direction."

The Hoosiers were a wandering-in-the-desert program for about as long as Moses. But the Tom Allen era promises the most thrills in Bloomington since George Taliaferro was an All-American in the late 1940s, not a memorial statue.

Scott demonstrated faith in Allen’s pitch because recent numbers were only vaguely in the neighborhood of the "right direction."

The last time the Hoosiers recorded a winning record before last year was 2007. The time before that, Scott, who recently turned 20, was not yet born, in 1994.

This college football era appears to be rooted in explosive passing offenses enabling the best quarterbacks to put up astonishing statistics. Exhibit A was Joe Burrow last fall, who threw for 60 touchdown passes and 5,600 yards for Louisiana State.

The game seems so rigged in that direction 2,000-yard running backs are nearly taken for granted, or at least barely able to collect Heisman Trophy votes.

For a team to be great, however, it still needs to control the line of scrimmage and have a back who can be counted on to lug the ball with the power of a freight train.

Scott is one of those guys. He stands 6-foot-2 and weighs 230 pounds as his junior year looms. As a freshman, Scott ran for 1,137 yards and 10 touchdowns and six times compiled 100 yards in a game.

His sophomore year, Scott ran for 845 yards, averaging 4.7 yards per carry, and scored another 10 touchdowns. His second season did not match or exceed his first because Scott was injured against Michigan in late November, and he missed the Old Oaken Bucket showdown versus Purdue and IU’s game against Tennessee in the Gator Bowl, overall carrying the ball 50 fewer times.

"Oh, man, those were very hard times," Scott said of being forced to the sidelines for two games.

Scott is of the workhorse back ilk, a strong man who can carry tacklers if they get in the way. Mike Hart, IU’s associate coach and running backs coach, said Scott is that type of player.

Allen wants to see improvement in the team’s running game, Hart said, particularly on early downs so the Hoosiers face more three-and-two situations instead of third-and-throwing.

Hart said if the team is behind or needs long yardage to keep a drive alive, "It’s hard to call another run play." But if the team scores more points, it can use the run to kill the clock.

"I think we can do it," he said.

That’s where Scott comes in.

"Stevie wants the ball," Hart said. "He loves football. He’s a great player. He can still get better."

Scott hardly feels insulted hearing that. He knows it and wants to improve. His mindset is there.

"Run the ball mean and aggressive," Scott said of what he looks forward to in fall play.

Indiana’s spring football was thrown completely out of kilter, as were all seasonal sports, by the COVID-19 pandemic. After only four real practices, the Hoosiers went into isolation.

The procedures of preparation may be different for the 2020 season, but the aim will be the same — win as often as possible.

The power back said his personal goal will be to "keep the chains moving." Something Stevie Scott III is uniquely qualified to do.