Notes: A Late Bloomer

Although he didn't grow into a dominant playmaker as fast as the other linebackers in his recruiting class, senior captain O'Brien Schofield grew into a new position, a leader in the Badgers' locker room and a recognizable presence on UW's defensive line.

MADISON - When starting to pencil out the 2005 recruiting class, then-defensive coordinator Bret Bielema and then-coach Barry Alvarez felt that the Badgers could afford to spend five of their 23 available scholarships on bringing in quality linebackers.

The success early on of DeAndre Levy, Jonathan Casillas, Travis Beckum and Elijah Hodge could be seen, but the struggles of O'Brien Schofield were easily noticed.

"I thought he was a big body," Bielema recalled Monday. "I thought he could be an outside linebacker, maybe grow into the possibility of a defensive end … Of those five linebackers, those other four had success early on, OB had none."

A three-star athlete and ranked as the 55th-best linebacker in the 2005 class by Scout.com, Schofield had 12 sacks, 10 tackles for loss, 13 fumble recoveries and three defensive touchdowns his junior season at North Chicago Community High School, but limited scholarship offers.

When he came to Wisconsin's summer camp, however, Schofield impressed the coaching staff with his work ethic and coachability. Throw in the fact that Schofield has two NFL cousins - defensive end Vonnie Holiday and receiver Bobby Engram – and an uncle, Andre Carter, that played safety at Clemson, the coaching staff felt it necessary to offer him a scholarship.

"He worked his tail off, great with his eyes and ears and you saw that it was important to him," Bielema said of Schofield's camp performance. "To see the growth and development of him (now) is exceptional."

Four years later, the maturation of Schofield has made the Badgers (5-0, 2-0 Big Ten) one of the surprise teams in the Big Ten Conference, as Wisconsin will take its unblemished record to eighth-ranked Ohio State on Saturday.

In UW's five wins this season, Schofield leads the Big Ten in sacks (4.5) and tackles for loss (11.0) and is tied for the NCAA lead in TFLs. Against Minnesota, Schofield recording six tackles, 3.5 TFLs, a career-high two sacks and a forced fumble that sealed the Badgers sixth-straight win over their border rivals, a performance that earned him Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week.

More importantly, Schofield is durable, having started every game since the 2008 Outback Bowl.

"To have him get recognized not only by us but also by the league, I can't say enough about him being a senior captain," Bielema said. "His play speaks volumes about the way he's being coached up. Coach Partridge has done a great job with him the last two years being with him and doing what he's doing with him from a defensive point of a view is special."

Learning on the Road

Every team in Bielema's four years as head coach has been a different blend of talent and personalities, which makes learning from them a fun and important job for the head coach. In past years, Bielema has often said that taking his team on the first road game of the season allows his team to bond, face a new kind of adversity and the results, win or lose, give him feedback as his team moves forward.

In 2006, an under-the-radar Badger team beat Bowling Green in Cleveland by showing an offensive balance that would lead Wisconsin to a 12-win season, the best season record-wise in Wisconsin history.

In 2007, Bielema learned how gritty his quarterback, Tyler Donovan, and how valuable the running game was to Wisconsin's success, a unit that averaged 200.8 yards to per game that season, in a win over UNLV.

Last season, Bielema learned that the Badgers, at the time, could survive a tough, hostile environment, even when things weren't going right, by sticking to the game plan and to each other in a victory over Fresno State.

Although last weekend's first road game came much later in the season than any of the other three contests, Bielema learned an important thing about his team – the demeanor his team displayed in such an emotional setting.

"An official came up to me during the game and made reference to me how well our players were handling the ‘business' that was going on around the plays," Bielema said. "I was well aware of friends playing against friends. There is an interstate recruiting battle here."

Bielema made reference to Blake Sorensen getting taunted by the Minnesota sideline on kickoff unit, but only reacting by nodding his head and focusing on the task at hand. The calmness paid off in the second quarter, when David Gilreath, a Minneapolis native, didn't respond to taunts by Minnesota's Traye Simmons, who was eventually flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct.

"The last thing you would want to have happen is the official to throw that and have our guy react," Bielema said. "The second guy gets called for that, we have off-setting penalties and we don't go anywhere. I think our guys showed a level of maturity."

Simple Celebrations

Along those same lines, you won't catch the Badgers having any choreographed end zone celebration in the near future. No Badger is going to leap in the end zone stands, pull a cell phone or Sharpie out from underneath padding or a sock and nobody is going to put his hands in an X formation.

John Clay did the latter of those celebrations early last season. A stern talk from Bielema, all of Clay's 15 touchdowns since has been of the quiet variety, simply handing the ball to the official and celebrating with his teammates.

"Anything that is probably pre-determined, anything that is not a natural reaction … you do a certain movement, that tells me you've thought about it a little bit," Bielema said. "You jump up and look for your teammates, that's natural. Our ball goes to the official. Fortunately for us, we've avoided those situations and we'll continue to do so."

Extra Points: John Clay was named Big Ten and UW Offensive Player of the Week, O'Brien Schofield was named Big Ten and UW Defensive Player of the Week along with Minnesota-native Blake Sorensen.

"Blake Sorensen was very amped up and to have the big plays that he had and just play every down the way he did was special," Bielema said. "I know he was going through a lot going back to his home state and really the first time he had an opportunity to do that."

Jon Budmayr and Jacob Pedersen was named Offensive Scout Players of the Week and Chukwuma Offor was the Defensive Scout Player of the Week … The Homecoming game against the Hawkeyes will be televised by either ESPN or ESPN2 at 11 a.m. next weekend.


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