Tyler Scott took Northwestern fans by surprise last season. Just a sophomore, Scott won the starting job at defensive end, providing a steady, much-needed pass rush for the Wildcat defense.
However, Scott's emergence was no surprise to head coach Pat Fitzgerald. After all, Scott is known as one of the Wildcats' top weight room performers. It's that work ethic which leads Fitzgerald to believe Scott will accomplish much more this season.
"Tyler Scott to me is on the cusp of being a breakout guy nationally," Fitzgerald said to the media following a spring scrimmage. "He's got some special qualities."
Scott appreciates the praise from his coach, but doesn't feel like he's at an elite level just yet. Not without a little hard work.
"I saw a lot of things on film that I could correct in order for me to be that player," said Scott. "A lot of little things that I need to focus on like my stance later in the games, just simple footwork things that can help me as the game goes on."
Scott made his presence known immediately last season. In the season-opener against Boston College, he finished with four tackles, including a sack of Chase Rettig for an eight-yard loss.
After the first game, opposing offensive lines began to key on Scott in their scouting reports. Northwestern's inconsistent defensive line finished with just 17 sacks on the season, ranking it near the bottom of the Big Ten standings.
The Wildcat defense is hungry this season, after a tumultuous 2011 campaign. The unit hopes to make major improvements, and that all starts up front.
"We're just trying to create that attitude to not take anything and bring it every down," Scott said of the defensive line.
Scott, too, hopes to build upon his last season, namely by turning his strong pass-rushing efforts into sacks.
"Where I need to focus on this year is my pass rush; I only had one sack last year," he said. "I really struggled off the edge and that's something I've really worked on this spring."