Schaffer Steps To The Front

It's hard to believe J.K. Schaffer is getting ready to play his junior season of college football. It seems like only a few months ago the young Cincinnati LaSalle product was working just to earn a scholarship. Now a veteran, Schaffer will be looked upon as a leader as the Bearcats go through several changes as they prepare for the 2010 season.

While J.K. Schaffer loves working in the weight room, his passion on the field has made him a fan favorite in Nippert Stadium. While he's now played in several big games and is considered a veteran, he knows this season will be one of change. How different was the first few days of spring practice under Butch Jones?

"A little different, it's just nice to get back out here on the field and some actual football stuff. I don't mind the weight room work, but it's just nice to get back out here on the field and do some drills and some 7-on-7. But it's been a real fast pace with a lot of enthusiasms. It's been pretty cool."

While he's been able to watch and learn from guys like Andre Revels the past two seasons, the pressure is on him to step up and be a leader. How does it feel to see the roles reverse?

"It's pretty wild. I know the first two years I was doing a lot of learning from guys like Revs (Andre Revels), now they are counting on me to step up as a leader and I wouldn't want it to be any other way. I love the challenge and the opportunity."

One of the changes comes in a change of defensive scheme. Having started in a 4-3 scheme before playing in the 3-4 has seen J.K. lineup at different spots on the field. Now penciled in as a "Will" (weak side) linebacker has Schaffer excited, but not too worried about where he'll lineup.

"I'll play anywhere they want me to play, defensive end, free safety, I don't really care. I could play Mike (middle backer) or Will, just what ever. It doesn't really matter to me."

As for the changes under Butch Jones and his staff this offseason and now this spring?

"Definitely a lot of changes but I think those changes are for the good. Just like it's been here today, there has been a lot of energy during the offseason and that has carried over today as guys are excited and embracing the change."

Anytime there is change it takes time for teams to embrace them. But playing on a program that has seen great success and still going through a change can be strange. How have his teammates adjusted to the change?

"I'm not sure if the success we've had makes it easier for a change. I'm sure we might have some guys here who look at it as we won the old way and why don't we keep doing it like that. But I think it's a special thing how this team has said let's forget about the past two years, were going to win with the new system too. So I think we have a pretty special team here."

As for Butch Jones, J.K. sees a breath of fresh air from the new Bearcats head coach as he's been up front about his passion and excitement for the game of football. With coaches' chest bumping players and other coaches, Schaffer knows the coaching staff is working side-by-side of the players.

"It didn't really surprise me with how Coach Jones has been because he said he's going to do it. He didn't let us down with that part. It's always nice to see your head coach excited to be out here and you know he's out here working with you."

As for any goals for the spring J.K. knows to keep it simple.

"I just want to reestablish my role on the defense and be a leader."

Make no mistake, J.K. Schaffer knows players play and coaches coach. But with a change at the head of the Bearcats ship in Butch Jones, J.K. likes how the new coach has taken control and given the team an extra dose of energy.

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