Fast development

O'Brien Schofield, a converted prep defensive end, has had an encouraging first spring at linebacker

MADISON — It is not much of a surprise that O'Brien Schofield has looked right at home as a rush end in some nickel packages for the University of Wisconsin football team this spring. After all, Schofield was a highly regarded defensive end in high school.

"It reminds me of high school, so it is kind of easy, but the lineman are way bigger," Schofield said of playing rush end.

He still looks more natural coming off the edge, sizing up an offensive lineman and pursing the quarterback than he does playing linebacker. But Schofield was long labeled for the conversion once he reached the college ranks. And the pleasant surprise for the Badgers at this stage has to be just has how fast Schofield is picking up the strongside linebacker position.

"With all reality being said, O'Brien was a down lineman in high school, came in, was a guy that I saw wasn't going to be able to help us last year, so he was delegated to the scout team, didn't have a lot of individual linebacker play," head coach Bret Bielema said after practice last Saturday. "And (new linebackers coach) Dave (Doeren) has really done a good job of developing him. He's making small steps every day, but today I think he took a pretty big jump."

Bielema was referring to Schofield's sparkling play in UW's scrimmage that day, when he made several impressive plays.

It has been a noteworthy spring for Schofield, who has taken a big enough jump to solidify the Badgers' depth at sam linebacker, earning the No. 2 spot behind DeAndre Levy.

"It's been almost like 100 percent," Schofield said of his improvement, "because I had to learn the stance, how to call fronts. Just communicating. Because at D end I didn't really have to say anything. It's been a very big step. With fits and being more physical and pass drops, coverage, all that."

"Right now I'm in a development process," Schofield said. "… I'm still learning the position of linebacker. Coach is working with me. Right now I'm just here to improve, and then maybe during the fall I'll be working for that starting spot. But right now I'm just trying to get down the hang of linebacker."

Schofield is exceptionally fast for a linebacker, having covered 40 yards in 4.56 seconds prior to spring ball. Schofield, though, actually ran the 40 in 4.4 seconds in high school, but he has gained 15 pounds since then, and now sizes up at 6-foot-3, 235 pounds.

"I was impressed that I gained that weight and still (ran a 4.56)," Schofield said.

What does Schofield consider his strengths?

"Right now I would say blitzing," he said. "I've been doing pretty good blitzing. Keeping leverage on my coverage. I've been a lot better doing reading in zones and stuff. I just have to work on taking on some blocks and being more physical."

Schofield feels he still has a considerable distance to travel along his growth curve.

"You can never feel comfortable because you always can improve," he said. "It's still some growth that needs to come at the position. But I have four years left. So I think I'll complete that growth period."

While Schofield continues to get a handle of the sam position and his backup role behind Levy, he will have plenty of additional opportunities to reach the field. The Badgers have a lot of depth at defensive end, but Schofield could still earn a rush-end role in the nickel. And he has been used on the first-team goal-line defense.

"Those are big opportunities to get on the field so I'm working very hard to do that," Schofield said.

Badger Nation Top Stories