Signee profile: JerQuari Schofield

Football coaches covet left tackles who can protect a quarterback's blind side, so it's a little surprising that South Carolina head man Steve Spurrier recently let one slip across the state border.

JerQuari Schofield, a 6-6, 315-pounder, proved his pass-protecting skills during a standout career at South Aiken High, roughly 60 miles from the SC campus in Columbia. When National Signing Day arrived last February, however, he opted for the Tennessee Vols instead of the home-state Gamecocks.

"South Carolina was on me at first," Schofield recalled by phone from his family home in Aiken. "Then there was a coaching change, and they stopped contacting some people."

The "coaching change" consisted of Spurrier showing offensive line coach John Hunt the door last December. Once Hunt departed, Schofield dropped off South Carolina's recruiting radar.

"It didn't matter," he said. "I would've signed with Tennessee anyway. I was a Rocky Top fan all along."

Though somewhat unheralded, Schofield ranks as a key recruit because left tackles are such a valuable commodity. Three of them – Baylor's Jason Smith, Alabama's Andre Smith and Virginia's Eugene Monroe – were taken among the first eight picks in last month's NFL Draft.

Blessed with the size to stop bull rushers and the quickness to reroute speed rushers, JerQuari Schofield is ideally suited to left tackle.

"Left tackle is my best position because of my pass blocking," he said. "You need to have good feet so you can stay in front of the defender. And, if you do lose a step, don't give up on the play."

In addition to his massive frame and quick feet, Schofield has a good mind and a strong belief in teamwork. Those are critical assets for an offensive lineman.

"I know my position and know what I have to do," he said. "When I get there (to Tennessee), I want to figure out what I can do to make our team better. I'm a team player first."

Although he played some defense in high school, Schofield projects strictly to offensive tackle at the collegiate level.

"The coaches say they're going to look at me at left and right tackle," he said. "That's fine with me ... wherever I can best help the team."

In addition to the workout regimen Vol coaches sent him, Schofield did some running with several South Aiken track team members this spring.

"I've been lifting weights and doing sprints and distance running with the track team after school," he said. "I feel like I've gotten stronger and faster but I haven't been tested, so there's no record."

Low-key and modest by nature, Schofield has been amused by all of the attention he has attracted since signing with the Vols last February.

"It's interesting the way people see you," he said. "Before (you sign) everybody sees you a certain way. Once you sign with a D-1 college, people see you in a different light. I think you get a little more respect."

Schofield says he is fully qualified and plans to be in Knoxville next week for the first session of UT summer school.

"I can't wait," he said. "I'm looking forward to it."

He's even more eager to put the pads on when preseason drills begin in August.

"My goal for this year is just get to play," he said. "Once I have a chance to learn the plays, learn everything I need to, I think I can help. And if I get a chance to contend for a position, I want to win that."

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