“Old age? No, I’m still a young man,” Scott told reporters. “But oldest on the team? Yeah, I can tell throughout OTAs and workouts because you can tell the guys are looking up to you and feeding off your energy. If you’re down, they’re down. If you’re up, they’re up. So I definitely feel like one of the old guys of the group.”
Leadership goes hand-in-hand with seniority, and after playing alongside talkers Jabari Price and Tre Boston for three years, Scott moves into a key role as his former teammates are playing professional ball.
Scott (49 tkl, 2 INT in '13) is the lone senior in a five-man starting secondary lineup that includes three sophomores and a junior. The challenge thus far has been in cementing his new responsibilities while providing guidance to his younger teammates.
“Defenses mess up when one person tries to be an individual and freestyle,” Scott said. “But this year I feel like I know where my run gaps are and I know where I need to fill. Sometimes I won’t make the tackle, but if I fill my gap, it will help my teammate make his tackle.”
Scott’s shift to free safety appeared to be an immediate success – he tallied six tackles and a sack in UNC’s 39-17 Belk Bowl victory in December – although he admits it was an uncomfortable move at first. There were plenty of talks, conversations and arguments with associate head coach Vic Koenning over the switch and what it entailed, according to Scott.
Koenning explained the new role as little more than a deeper corner position as he intends to play more man coverage this fall. Scott said he will have similar job requirements at free safety, but he will be able to start at a slower pace because he doesn’t have to jump as soon as the ball is snapped.
Koenning’s scheme demands athletes all over the field to be most effective, and by moving Scott to safety, that position becomes one in which UNC can either blitz or play man coverage.
It helps, of course, that sophomore cornerbacks Brian Walker and Desmond Lawrence played well enough last fall to allow Koenning to feel comfortable moving Scott from a position where he started the previous three seasons. Add in true freshman M.J. Stewart and the depth at cornerback becomes a strength for the first time in years.
“Those guys just came in and worked,” Scott said. “They do what they need to do to be better every day, to better themselves. I’m really excited to see what they can do this year. I know B Walk and Des, for example, they’re going to be two guys that really shine this year in their coverage skills.”
As for Scott’s transition, he’s old enough to know that results in the offseason don’t necessarily translate to live action on Saturdays. While he’s comfortable in his current role, the final verdict is still months ways.
“This year will tell it all,” Scott said. “I’ve never really played safety. In past years I’ve played corner and nickel, but I felt comfortable playing safety in the Cincinnati game. I felt like it could be a natural position for me since I knew the defense and what I needed to do.”