HOLLYWOOD, Calif. - Get ready for Fat_Mac34. He's coming to Autzen Stadium this fall, and he's coming strong.
Fat_Mac34 is the Twitter handle for Oregon freshman nose tackle Jordon Scott. Although, he is no longer carrying as much excess weight as his handle would suggest and that has the Ducks buzzing. Scott made such an impression during spring drills that UO coach Willie Taggart is predicting big things for him before he's ever played a down of college football.
"I'll be shocked if he's not all-freshman Pac-12," Taggart said Thursday during Pac-12 Media days.
One of the biggest (pun intended) mysteries surrounding the 2017 Oregon football team is the 6-foot-1, 335-pound Scott, a relatively unheralded three-star recruit out of Largo, Fla., who enrolled early at UO and is listed as the starter on its preseason depth chart, according to Taggart.
The Ducks, 4-8 last season, could need Scott to play at near an all-conference level as the No. 1 nose tackle. Improvement of Oregon's defense, which ranked 128th in the country last season, will require a dramatic rise in performance from at least 10 out of 11 positions on the field with sophomore linebacker Troy Dye being the lone returning defender that actually played consistently well in 2016.
The Ducks were softest last year up the middle, where opposing teams ran wild against Oregon's 4-3 defense. Now in the 3-4 under new defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt, finding a nose tackle has been of the highest priority.
Last year's starting defensive tackles won't be available. Austin Maloata was dismissed from the team by former coach Mark Helfrich following an arrest. Junior Rex Manu will miss the upcoming season because of an injury suffered during a car accident.
Those situations left redshirt sophomore Gary Baker as the favorite to start inside. That was, until Scott arrived and began turning heads with his power, quickness, tenacity, energy, work ethic, and infectious personality.
"He has had an impact on our entire team," Dye said.
Scott reportedly received a scholarship offer from Florida before the Gators pulled it back because of Scott's inability to keep his weight down. He arrived at Oregon a hefty 357 pounds but has since gotten down to 333, Taggart said. Scott is listed at 335 on the GoDucks.com roster. Taggart said he wants to see Scott's weight drop to 325.
Taggart said Scott performed all of the running tests players go through prior to fall camp, which begins Monday, and obviously did his work over the summer.
"He's a guy that likes to eat," Taggart said. "But he stuck to it."
Leavitt last winter, Taggart said, had doubts about Scott's ability to play in the Pac-12. But once Leavitt saw him on the field, that impression changed.
"He's making Leavitt a believer," Taggart said.
Last spring, Leavitt praised Scott's abilities and predicted that he certainly would have an impact this fall.
“Heʼs a very explosive guy and he has great character and he has great demeanor,” Leavitt told CSN in May. “And he has great confidence and knows what he wants. He knows what he wants to do in life, and those qualities are very, very important.”
Taggart predicts that Scott will give opposing interior offensive linemen fits.
"It's the perfect system for him," Taggart said. "It helps that he is short and he's strong. It's gong to be tough to get up underneath him. You're going to have to double team him."
Taggart has said since day 1 at Oregon that he is looking for players who love the game. Scott, Taggart said, fits that mold and it shows in his motor.
"The thing that makes him special is how he runs to the football," Taggart said. "Not many kids, especially young guys, are running to the ball. They get blocked and stay blocked. But he is running. You look at the film and the big boy is going."
Figure that Scott and Baker could split playing time almost equally while Scott adjusts to the college level. Being the starter doesn't automatically mean he is ready to handle veteran offensive linemen within the Pac-12 for 50 plays a game. He most certainly, as a freshman, still needs to add strength and stamina to hold up at this level.
Scott's primary job will be to control the middle, occupy blockers and allow the inside linebackers to make plays. But if Scott is what Taggart believes he will be, then expect to see Scott to get plenty of backfield penetration, and force ballcarriers running outside to be on the lockout for Fat_Mac34 in pursuit.
"I feel sorry for any running back that's cutting back and don't see him," Taggart said. "That's going to be ugly."