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Darrell Scott and Mike Ford - The Inevitable Comparison

It didn't take long after the reports came out about Darrell Scott transferring to USF for a lot of Bulls fans to make the comparison between Scott and another five-star running back from USF's past, Mike Ford. I think it's fair and also unfair at the same time.

The two of them do have a lot of things in common. Right now they are both highly-touted running backs who have largely failed to live up to the promise they showed when they arrived on campus. When the two of them did see the field at their respective schools, it was only on a part-time basis, and rarely for more than a series at a time. Fans of both schools couldn't really understand why either running back wasn't getting more playing time. And for both players, there are quite a few theories as to why they never reached their potential.

As you might have read in the Ralphie Report's take on Scott, he came to Boulder overweight, was often injured, and never seemed to win the trust of the Buffaloes coaches. As we detailed when Ford was dismissed from the USF team, he was often injured, ran into academic and other discipline problems, and never seemed to win the trust of the Bulls coaches. Coaching may have played some part in both of their issues as well. Dan Hawkins has proven over his time at Colorado that he probably should not be running a major program (after all, this ain't intramurals). Meanwhile, Ford certainly wasn't the only offensive player whose development leveled off during their time at USF (see also: Grothe, Matt), and Jim Leavitt was so hands-off with substitution patterns that sometimes he would admit he didn't realize certain players were in the game when things went wrong.

We also said in our story about Ford that he was a square peg in a round hole -- a hard-nosed power running back who played in an offense that wasn't really suited to his talents. Moreover, USF did not change their offense to take advantage of what Ford could do except in rare instances:

  • In last year's International Bowl, the Bulls were sputtering and tied 3-3 at halftime with Northern Illinois. In the locker room, Leavitt went to his assistant coaches and flat-out told them they needed to pound the ball. Ford rushed for 189 yards in the second half and 207 for the game, spurring the Bulls to a comfortable 27-3 win.
  • Against Pittsburgh in 2008, USF turned to Ford in the fourth quarter to try and save the 10th-ranked Bulls from an upset. He carried seven times for 53 yards en route to the go-ahead touchdown.

That's why it was an extra disappointment when Ford was kicked off the team, because with the promise of a more flexible offensive approach, the chance was there for him to really clean up this season. Now, the chance will exist for Scott in 2011 if he is in fact becoming a Bull.

In the end, it's not entirely fair to compare the two right now. Not only does Scott not have any disciplinary problems that I'm aware of, but in order to make a comparison between the two, you would have to project Scott's disappointing time at Colorado onto a career at USF that hasn't happened yet. Put it this way -- if you were the school giving a second chance to Mike Ford (assuming he didn't have the off-the-field issues), you would probably welcome him with open arms and see if you could make something of him, instead of assuming that you would get the same thing his first school got.

We're on a different side of the timeline with Darrell Scott than we were with Mike Ford. As the team giving him a second chance instead of the one letting him leave, it's certainly worth the investment to see if he can finally live up to all the promise he had as the nation's top high school running back three years ago. Clearly Skip Holtz thinks he can do it, and we're hoping he can too.