Putting it on the line: Tyler Scott dazzles as starter

Colin Becht

Tyler Scott faced some major changes upon arriving at Northwestern in August 2009.

Instead of playing either of his high school positions, linebacker or tight end, Scott came to the Wildcats as a defensive end, a duty fellow defensive end Vince Browne described as “the polar opposite of linebacker.”

The transition from linebacker to lineman took Scott an entire year, not because he was slow to pick up his new assignment but because he faced another major change early in his NU career. He was told he needed shoulder surgery and would miss the entire season on his third day of practice.

“For the whole first year, he sat in the back of the meeting room,” defensive line coach Marty Long said.

But when Scott got back on the field for spring practices, his potential was immediately evident.

“At spring practice, he flew around,” Long said. “(He was) an active guy inside. We knew he was going to be a player.”

Why the quick progression? Scott spent the offseason intensely hitting the weights. Now a sophomore, Scott weights 265 pounds, 45 pounds more than he was as a recruit.

“We thought 20 pounds from now he has a chance and now he’s (45) pounds (heavier),” coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “The shoulder injury coming in really helped him in a backwards way. He just spent a ton of time in the weight room.”

The added size has made Scott a force on the defensive line, earning him a starting spot opposite Browne Scott’s 21 tackles this season are the most among NU’s defensive linemen. He also has two tackles for loss, a sack, two fumble recoveries and two passes broken up, a number leaves him tied with three members on the Cats’ secondary and ahead of safety Ibraheim Campbell.

“Football’s important to him,” Browne said. “If football’s important to you, you’re going to be good because you want to. He wants to.”

Thus far, the possible lineman NU saw in the linebaker Scott has been spot on.

“We saw a player that lined up at the linebacker position that was able to run from sideline to sideline,” Long said. “We never saw Tyler in a three-point stance, but yet we felt that he had the skills to come off the edge and be a good football player.”

It was a chance not many schools were willing to take, as Scott received just two other offers from FBS programs, Bowling Green and Eastern Michigan, according to Rivals.com.

“We don’t get too caught up about that if we believe in what we see in the video and in the evaluation,” Fitzgerald said. “That was pretty obvious with Tyler.”

Scott’s conversion to defensive end was aided by the innate athleticism he showed in high school. In addition to lining up on both sides of the ball on the gridiron, Scott also played basketball for three years.

“If you were to go and watch intramural basketball, he is probably one of the best intramural basketball players on campus,” Fitzgerald said. “He’s just a really dynamic athlete.”

That athleticism still leaves Scott in high demand among the position coaches, especially superbacks coach Bob Heffner, who wouldn’t mind trying out the former tight end who caught seven touchdown passes his senior season at Howland High School in Warren, Ohio.

“Bob Heffner would have loved to have him at tight end,” Fitzgerald said. “There was some ribbing going back and forth. ‘Hey Marty, if he can’t start for you on the D-line, he can start at superback.'”

Long’s not letting Scott go anytime soon though, saying that with the determination Scott showed in switching to defensive end, he has tremendous potential.

“He has an inner drive that pushes him to be a great player,” Long said. “He’s not that yet, but he’s on the train. The train is moving.”

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