Jan. 21, 2010
MADISON, Wis. -- His collegiate career may be over, but O'Brien Schofield still has a lot of football left in him. To further his dream of playing in the NFL, Schofield is playing in the 2010 East-West Shrine Game on Saturday, Jan. 23 at the Florida Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Fla.
The game, which will air at 2 p.m. (CT) on ESPN2, will be held in a familiar venue for the Great Lakes, Ill., native. Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium was the site of the Badgers' 20-14 win over Miami in the Champs Sports Bowl on Dec. 29.
The East-West Shrine Game will also act as a precursor to the 2010 NFL Combine in Indianapolis, which Schofield was invited to along with fellow Badger Garrett Graham.
Practice started on Monday for Schofield, who will play for the East squad. Despite being a standout defensive end on the college level, Schofield projects as a linebacker in the NFL by scouting experts. As a result, he has honed his skills at the position to better prepare himself.
Todd McShay, director of college football scouting for Scouts Inc., has been providing reports for ESPN.com. Heading into the first week of practice, McShay listed Schofield as a player with "Something to prove (subscription required)."
"Schofield displays good initial quickness and closing burst off the edge. The caveat is he is undersized (6-2, 240 pounds) and likely will need to transition to a 3-4 outside linebacker at the next level. We will keep a close eye on him to see whether he can set the edge against the run and how fluid he looks when dropping into coverage as a linebacker."
Schofield had an up and down first day of practice (subscription required) in McShay's eyes.
"Wisconsin's O'Brien Schofield is expected to move from end to linebacker in the NFL and he started making the transition this week in practice. Quickness and straight-line speed do not appear to be an issue. He can close quickly in the short area and he ran with TE Andrew Quarless on one play. On the other hand, Schofield stumbled once when asked to change directions during bag work and looked stiff in space during the team period. In fact, the East coaching staff lined him up on the inside at times. Additionally, he's clearly a raw linebacker. He is taking too shallow of an angle when asked to drop into the flat, he doesn't time his jumps well in coverage and is taking a split-second too long to locate the ball in run defense. It will be interesting to see how he progresses during the week."
Day two (subscription required) was a continuation of Schofield learning the new position. Though rough at times, McShay said it was encouraging.
"It's been interesting watching Wisconsin's O'Brien Schofield. He's switching from DE to LB this week -- and it's a traditional LB, not just a pass rusher -- so we give him credit because he's flying around, mixing it up and showing he's very coachable. Players come here to showcase their skills, but he's learning on the job and it must be a very frustrating experience. He could have probably come here, played end, rushed the passer but we wouldn't have learned anything about him. One of the defensive coaches here, Richie Solomon, who coached in the NFL at Minnesota and Arizona, has been working with Schofield and it's been like watching a high school coaching clinic. One play, Solomon will talk to him about the depths of his drops, and you'll see Schofield really working on that, but while doing that he turns his head and loses the QB. So then Solomon tells him good depth, but you can't lose vision of the QB. So Schofield will do that, but then he loses leverage on the flat route and comes too far in the middle, allowing the QB to dump it off to a back who gains seven yards instead of two. So then Solomon will mention that and on and on it goes. Every play he's learning something new but the coaches and scouts get that and in the end, we think it will end up being a positive for him."
By day three (subscription required), Schofield was really honing his skills and looking more comfortable.
"Wisconsin's O'Brien Schofield is looking more and more comfortable as he transitions to linebacker. He's still developing, obviously, but during inside run periods he was the SAM linebacker and lined up over the tight end and his natural feel for the edge showed. He used his hands well and it's obvious he's still more comfortable on the line than off it, but he's getting better. He's playing with more confidence now. He's still a bit hesitant but things are becoming more and more natural for him. It will be interesting to watch him during the 7-on-7s to watch his angles, his drops, the depth he gets and his leverage."
The Sporting News' Russ Lande has also praised Schofield.
"Schofield was easily the best player on the East team. Considering he played defensive end in college, he really helped himself by performing so well in a standup position. He showed very good quickness and the speed to cover tight ends in man coverage. He showed very good hips while turning and running with his man off the line. He played with excellent knee bend and leverage."
Schofield is the latest in a long line of Badgers to appear in the game. Wisconsin has been represented by at least one player every year since 2003. Last season, Andy Kemp, DeAndre Levy and Matt Shaughnessy all played in the game, the latter of which have since gone on to successful rookie seasons in the NFL.
The all-star game is also a culmination of a spectacular senior season for Schofield. He was named first-team All-Big Ten by both the media and the coaches and was honorable mention All-America by CollegeFootballNews.com. In addition, Schofield was a semifinalist for the Chuck Bednarik Award, given to the nation's top defensive player.
Wisconsin's co-MVP, Schofield had 24.5 tackles for loss in 2009. The mark was second-best in the NCAA and the second-best in UW history for one season. He also registered 12 sacks, which goes down as the third-best mark in Wisconsin single season history.
Schofield finished third on the team with 62 tackles, the most by a UW defensive lineman since Anttaj Hawthorne had 75 in 2003. Schofield also forced three fumbles and recovered another.
Follow the link for more information on the 2010 East-West Shrine Game.