It took Kam Scott all of one catch to show he belonged.
In Missouri’s season-opening win against Tennessee-Martin, Scott leaped into the air and caught a pass over a defender, shook a tackle and coasted into the end zone for a 70-yard score.
On Saturday during Missouri’s upset over Florida, he burned a Gators secondary that was considered one of the nation’s best and hauled in a 41-yard touchdown catch to extend the Tigers’ lead to 28-10 early in the third quarter.
The touchdown marked the beginning of the end for the Gators and was something Missouri hadn’t been able to do in its three previous close games this season — put the nail in the coffin.
Scott has just five catches this season, but he’s already piled up 162 yards receiving and a pair of touchdowns. He would have had a third touchdown against Kentucky if it didn’t get called back for a illegal block in the back. His 32.4 yards per catch would rank first in the nation if he had the 15 or more receptions to be considered.
With Missouri set to lose senior deep threat Emanuel Hall to graduation next spring, Scott appears poised to take his place.
“He’s a natural competitor, he loves being on the stage,” said A.J. Ofodile, MU’s wideouts coach. “He’s in his element on game day. He’s not cringing that they may throw him the ball. He covers a bunch of ground. Once we get him downfield he has an advantage.”
While quarterback Drew Lock has an established rapport with players like Hall and freshman Jalen Knox, his relationship with Scott is a bit different.
Because Scott has made the most of the few balls Lock has thrown to him, the true freshman has earned his quarterback’s trust.
“It’s a different ballgame for him now,” Lock said. “(The freshman receivers) found their roles. They realized what they need to be good. That’s why he’s starting to come along.”
At Manvel High in Texas, Scott played in a program that’s known as a factory for Division I players. Manvel produces blue-chip recruits every year, which left Scott him buried on the depth chart early in his career.
Watching film of Manville, Ofodile saw current Houston quarterback D’Eriq King throw passes to wideout Reggie Hemphill-Mapps, who signed with Texas. But a lanky sophomore also caught his eye.
Scott wasn’t playing regular snaps, but when he got the ball he usually proceeded to the end zone.
“Even in limited opportunities, he always made plays,” Ofodile said.
Kevin Hall, Scott’s high school coach at Manvel, thought his former star was destined to redshirt his first year of college, simply because of his 170-pound frame. If Scott was able to get on the field, it would likely be for his special-teams ability and his blazing speed.
“He’s got such a long stride that sometimes it doesn’t look like he’s running as fast as he really is until you look up and he’s blown by everybody,” Hall said.
Scott said it took a while for the light bulb to go on for him at the college level because of the size of the playbook and the expectations placed on him. Injuries to Hall and fellow senior Nate Brown just raised those expectations even more.
“It’s a lot,” Scott said. “It’s real hard. Coming in as a freshman and knowing you have a whole lot to do, it’s tough to make plays. As the season went on ... it just felt like high school. The players get bigger, but it’s the same thing.”
The 6-foot-2 receiver is drawing comparisons to Hall for his ability to move MU downfield. Both were track stars in high school and share a similar build.
Ofodile shies away from comparisons but agrees that Scott seems like a younger version of Hall, who was among the nation’s leading receivers before injuring his groin and should still be a highly sought-after NFL prospect.
“What you hope for Kam is that he has the developmental path that (Emanuel) did,” Ofodile said.
Opposing defenses will hope he’s wrong.