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Nick Scott Will Be Penn State’s Breakout Player in 2017

In our ongoing series, our writers name the Penn State football player they think will break out the biggest way in 2017. Up next, Cari discusses her pick: safety Nick Scott.

NCAA Football: Maryland at Penn State Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

With last year’s starting safety Malik Golden gone to try to make his mark in the league, someone else needs to step into the void alongside all-everything safety Marcus Allen. Enter once-third-string running back Nick Scott, who looks poised to have a breakout year in 2017.

Scott came to Penn State as part of James Franklin’s first class at Penn State, officially recruited by then-offensive coordinator John Donovan (though he had committed under Bill O’Brien’s staff), a three-star athlete from Fairfax, VA, with offers from Boston College, Nebraska, and USF. He redshirted his first year at Penn State, then spent his redshirt freshman year buried on the offensive depth chart behind original starter Akeel Lynch, then freshman phenom Saquon Barkley, though he did have the team’s best rushing approach against Indiana that season.

Despite being an offensive stalwart, Scott made an almost immediate impact on special teams - and not just as a returner (though he logged a 60+ yard return), as he made multiple tackles, setting him up for his eventual position change.

After the 2015 campaign, it was announced that Scott would make a move to the defensive side of the ball—as much about the logjam at running back, with freshmen Miles Sanders and Andre Robinson likely to surpass him on the depth chart—and an opportunity at safety.

Scott’s athleticism served him well in a back up role to Allen, Golden, and third-safety Troy Apke, and he returned to the field as a special teams ace, finishing third on the team in special teams tackles and returning kicks for much of the season. He finally feels like he’s finding his role on defense, as evidenced by hits like this:

This off-season, Allen has already made a name for himself and will likely continue to do so as the named captain of Special Teams, a role he’s taking over from the graduated Von Walker, whose number he wore against Michigan State when Walker was injured and couldn’t play.

Scott has been a player that Franklin name dropped multiple times during spring practice, and looks ready to compete for, if not dominate, the starting role alongside Allen; indeed, if anything it’s been his position change, not talent, or heart, or will to win, that has held him back. Now that he has more firmly solidified his football mindset into a defensive one, much of the press accounts from the spring indicate Scott has come a far way in the offseason.

With more talent than other schools saw and that Franklin and staff reiterated when they continued to recruit him when they took over at Penn State, Scott is in a position to break out this season, with an opportunity to see significant defensive time - as well as being the leader he’s threatened to be for years on special teams.

Scott is a ferocious hitter with a ton of potential and a mean streak, and a love for the game. Perhaps more surprising would be a year in which he doesn’t make an impact both on and off the field.