For obvious reasons, Nick Harwell is not going to be on our list because he no longer plays for Miami. When we were tabulating votes on this, there was still some question on a possible return to the RedHawks, but the writing seemed on the wall so we took him out of consideration. We can only wonder where he would have fallen — probably top ten, maybe top five — but to go from one of the top MAC players to No. 41 for your primary receiver is a bit of a fall. None of this is the fault of Dawan Scott, a perfectly capable and very good receiver.
Or is he a good receiver?
No question he's "good," but I'm talking about the other part. The MU roster insists on him being labeled as a running back, even after a season of starting at the "Z" receiver position, and I want to call him a wide receiver as well. He was credited with 15 carries and 52 receptions last year. He also had 15 kickoff returns, so maybe he's a returner, and in this game where roles are becoming increasingly more specialized (third down backs, nickel safeties, kickoff specialist), maybe it's time to just start calling these players "ball carriers." Whether you're right next to the quarterback or far the heck away from him, the assignment is to move the ball down the field. Dawan Scott is a ball carrier. There, I feel better.
Scott didn't really get a chance to carry the ball much until his senior year at Irmo High School in Columbia, South Carolina, when he finally racked up 33 touchdowns in 11 appearances, averaging 212 yards per game. These breakout performances were done in the shadow of the more highly-touted recruit, Mustafa Greene (who was dismissed from NC State last season).
His high school workload wasn't enough for big schools to offer Scott a scholarship, because one dynamite season after three on the bench will typically do that. But Miami struck gold in a similar way with Ben Roethlisberger. Such is the success path of a MAC team. Miami came calling and he contributed immediately as a true freshman, finishing third on the team in total receiving yards (424) behind Nick Harwell and Chris Givens, catching 20 balls and scoring two touchdowns. He followed that up last year with 57 catches for 851 yards and seven touchdowns, trailing only Harwell (and Andy Cruse in receptions). He had a career game against Akron, although several offensive players do, catching 11 balls for 208 yards, marking just the fourth time in Miami history a player had over 200 yards receiving. (The other three: yep, Harwell.)
The pattern you can see is he doesn't necessarily light up the stat sheet in terms of total catches, but with over 16 yards per reception, he's a speedy deep threat. The question will be, with the departures of Harwell and Cruse, will he touch the ball more? A 1,000-yard season is not out of the question, whether it involves 50 catches or 100. And he can move the ball out of the backfield, as well as back toward the end zone on kick returns. But entering his true junior season, how often he'll carry the ball will be the primary question.
Either way we could be looking at one of the breakout players of 2013, which will definitely help RedHawks fans forget about the other guy who nearly moved into the top ten this year.