Before Jamal Scott arrived on Eastern Illinois University’s campus in August, head coach Kim Dameron wasn’t familiar with his new running back’s fame.
A transfer from Independence (Kan.) Community College, Scott was one of three running backs to be featured on the hit Netflix series, “Last Chance U.” In one game, Scott ran for 180 yards.
“I went back and watched it a little bit during fall camp,” Dameron said. “I did not watch ‘Last Chance U’ until after I knew Jamal.”
Though his appearance on the TV series helped the public get to know Scott, coaches at four-year schools knew plenty about the 6-foot, 220-pound California native, including EIU defensive coordinator Cary Fowler.
“Coach Fowler was the one who was on me and believed in me,” Scott told Justin Rust of the Journal-Gazette & Times-Courier. “They believed in me, and I’m really glad that I chose EIU.”
Last week against Murray State, Scott rushed for a season-high 115 yards and a touchdown on only 16 carries. He has a chance to become EIU's main man in the backfield the rest of the season.
“He’s a big man with a little man’s feet,” Dameron said. “He played 66 plays the other night, and that was good to see. He’s put in a lot of work since he got here. He’s getting much better at learning our offense. You don’t just learn it overnight.”
Scott and the Panthers have a major challenge ahead this week in Ohio Valley Conference kingpin Jacksonville State, which is ranked seventh in the FCS national coaches poll this week.
The Gamecocks have 44 tackles for loss and are No. 1 nationally in total defense.
“They’re big, they’re physical. They’re fast. They’re intimidating,” Dameron said. “Every now and then, I have to turn the film off and put cold water on my face. We’ve got a daunting task ahead of us to go to Jacksonville State and try to shock the world.”
Three key matchups
- EIU QBs vs. JSU secondary: Johnathan Brantley and Harry Woodbery have made Eastern the No. 4 passing offense in FCS at 342.2 yards a game. JSU is the seventh-ranked pass defense in the nation.
- Receiver vs. reciever: Eastern’s Alexander Hollins leads the nation with 11 TD catches, and JSU’s Josh Pearson is No. 2 with eight TDs.
- EIU O-line vs. TFL crew: The Gamecocks have an astounding 44 tackles for loss, led by linebacker Christian Wafford and defensive lineman Connor Christian (5.5 each). The Panthers have allowed 33 TFLs.
Eastern Illinois (1-5) at No. 7 Jacksonville State (4-1), 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 13. Game will air on ESPN3.