Not only has the junior from Cincinnati had to deal with the challenges of playing for a new coaching staff but he's also been asked to bulk up for a move from defensive end to tackle this spring. Since Strong's arrival, the 6-foot-4 Scruggs has added about 15 pounds to his frame for his move to the interior.
"I'm getting used to being down in there," Scruggs said after Wednesday's practice. "I don't have as much freedom to pass rush. I have to make sure I keep my pads low and that I'm playing physical inside. You might get a couple plays off outside but inside you're always active. And also my mindset, just being a dirt worker in the trenches and being as physical as I can be upfront so that my linebackers can run free. So that's a big difference for me."
Scruggs made the move inside to boost Louisville's speed and athleticism on defense. Though he's not the biggest defensive tackle on the roster, Scruggs is easily one of Louisville's fastest and most active linemen.
"It was mainly because we want an athletic defensive tackle for our scheme," Scruggs said. "With movements and things like that they want a guy who can beat the blockers on pass rush and they need a guy who is fast enough to loop around the edge and make a play. That's what they talked to me about and they told me to be confident...and that I may feel undersized at 272 but there's people who have done it at 265. It's all about your get off, your hands and your violence and how physical you are."
"My coaches have worked with me getting me mentally prepared," said Scruggs. "I've done a lot of extra work...after the first day, granted there wasn't any pads, I felt okay in there."
A big part of the move for Scruggs was adding bulk to his frame. A former high school band member, Scruggs came to Louisville around 225-pounds two years ago. After an off-season in new strength and conditioning coach Pat Moorer's program, Scruggs is nearing 275-pounds to start spring practice.
"Coach Moorer's off-season program was tremendous for everyone," Scruggs said. "People shedding weight, people gaining weight. We had a guy on the team [Tim High] lose 20 something pounds. I gained 15 in a matter of three months. And we did a lot of speed work. I'm feeling overall stronger and faster."
How has Scruggs packed pounds on his frame so quickly? He ate a lot and worked out constantly leading into spring practice.
"We have deadlines to meet weight...." Scruggs said. "I just did my job and ate eight times a day, work out and get my calories up. And if you didn't make your weight there were consequences."
Scruggs was easily one of the quickest tackles on the field during practice Wednesday afternoon. He said the team was eager to start practice with their new coaching staff.
"Everybody was anxious and had butterflies," Scruggs said. "That's why I think there were a lot of blown assignments out there because of jitterbugs. We did walk-through's this week and people weren't blowing that many assignments. It feels good after doing nothing but lifting weights, watching film and reading playbooks to get out here and have all the fans come out and support us."
A major focus of the off-season was on accountability. Strong constantly stressed to his new players the importance of being accountable and Scruggs says he has noticed a big change from last season because of that emphasis.
"Much more this year than last year," Scruggs said. "I feel that the coaches have a lot invested in me and I know if I don't do my job then the next guys not going to be able to do his job. By them investing that power in me it makes me a lot more accountable for my actions. Everybody on the team feels that way. That was one of the big things during the off-season – accountability."
With a focus on being accountable, Scruggs and his teammates are ready to learn Strong's new defensive scheme this spring.
"It'll be much different," Scruggs said. "You have a different mindset, different ideas, different way things are run whether it be from a schematic standpoint or a pressure standpoint. I feel like there's a big difference in the packages we have."