One of the ways I like accessing talent, especially offensive linemen, is to speak with their opponents that went head-to-head vs. them. It was like a bandwagon filling up when I asked Big Ten Conference defensive linemen to tell me the player that had given them the hardest time in the trenches the last few years. The name they cited was Michael Ross Schofield III, and not his more "polarized" teammate on the opposite side of the front line.
Schofield's ability to play several positions on the front wall add to his resume, as National Football League teams like to shuffle around younger linemen to find the best fit for them at the next level before settling in at one spot. The coaching staff had planned to move the senior again, shifting him to left tackle for 2013, if Lewan had declared for the 2013 draft instead of returning to school.
As evident by his impressive performance during the agility tests at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine, where the Wolverine was timed at 5.01 seconds in the 40-yard dash and 4.57 in the short shuttle, Schofield is a naturally fluid mover off the snap who gets into the second-level quickly, demonstrating good balance and low pad level to make the open-field cut blocks.
When utilized as a pass protector, Schofield keeps his hands active and has the arm reach (34-inches) and wingspan (81 1/2-inches) to retreat and seal off edge rushers. His biggest assets are his ability to get behind his pads and power forward to widen the rush lanes, delivering thirty-one touchdown-resulting blocks for the rushing attack during his three seasons in the starting lineup.
As a senior, Schofield started all 13 games at right tackle, but did fill in on the left side when Taylor Lewan was sidelined vs. Penn State. He earned All-Big Ten Conference second-team honors after posting 67 knockdowns and 10 touchdown-resulting blocks. The offense generated 4,855 yards, averaging 247.77 yards per game passing. He would conclude his career playing in the 2014 Senior Bowl, where he saw most of his action back at offensive guard.
Schofield did not seem to mind playing primarily right guard at the Senior Bowl, as he hoped it was an opportunity to showcase his versatility in front of NFL scouts. Most professional teams keep two reserve offensive linemen active on game days, so having one who can one who can play multiple positions is ideal.
Schofield said the decision to play guard this week was partly his decision and partly the decision of the Falcons coaching staff.
If Schofield makes it in the NFL, he knows of at least one charitable program he plans to help with his status. His father — Michael Schofield Jr., a fire chief in Orland Park, Ill. — started a program a few years ago going around to area schools to share with teens stories of drug abuse and encourage them to make the right decisions. The younger Schofield and his brother have helped their father by talking to some students in the past.
"If you can perform well down here, the sky's the limit," Schofield said.
Schofield has good thickness throughout his waist and hips, along with a solid midsection, big bubble, good upper body muscle development and high-cut, thick thighs and calves. He possesses good arm length and a big wingspan, along with the above average hand length that allow him to lock on and ride a defender away from the ball. He also shows solid muscle development throughout his shoulders and chest, looking the part of a classic mauler, as he is big, stout and not the type that has a "jiggly" midsection. With his long arms, he excels at making the reach block and keeping defenders from getting a grip on his jersey. He looks like a tight end (which he was in high school) with the way he moves on the field as a lead blocker out of the backfield, but with his thick thighs and calves, he has no problem anchoring vs. stunts and games.
Schofield has very good timed speed (5.01 seconds in the 40-yard dash, with a clocking of 1.73 seconds at 10-yards) and footwork, along with the ability to quickly recover when out on an island with an edge rusher, but might find a quicker route to an NFL starting job on the right side of the line. When he gets out of position, he is quick to redirect, thanks to good hip snap. He shows very good strength and good explosion out of his stance, as he consistently plays with a good base. He doesn't bend too much at the waist and is a solid second level blocker, thanks to his foot speed and good agility in the open field. He's the type of athlete that "looks better" on tape, as he will surprise a lethargic defender with his quickness anchoring and establishing position. He flashes above average body control, balance and change of direction agility on the move, and those attributes could see a few teams regard him more as a guard, due to his success on traps and pulls. For a player his size, he plays with a good base, is light on his feet, but needs to stay lower in his pads, as defenders at the next level could have success pushing him back into the pocket when he gets too high in his stance (see 2013 Michigan State and Nebraska games). With his strength, he can be explosive coming off the snap, but when he narrows his base and gets too upright, it negates his anchor. He has good lateral agility working in-line and runs with a normal stride getting out in front on drive blocks.
Schofield is a good student of the game, so much so, you can be confident that he can handle calling blocking assignments, if needed. He has the ability to quickly grasp the playbook and is a minimal "reps" type who shows very good awareness and ability to pick up stunts (see 2013 Notre Dame, Indiana and Ohio State games). He has had just two false start penalties in his last 26 games and is not an error-prone performer. He applies himself in "skull sessions" and easily takes the plays from the chalkboard to the playing field. The thing you see on film is his ability to instantly pick up schemes and counter react to them. He has quickly grasped the art of playing either offensive tackle position, but has also shown the balance and explosion to pull and trap as a guard. His success in the trenches comes from his ability to adjust to defensive movement with ease. Simply put, he has been a good student of the game, as he won't repeat the same mistakes (hey, after all, he went to Carl Sandburg High School and you have to be a smart "cookie" there).
Schofield continues to add bulk and strength, and he is a tough character with a lot of aggression in his game. He seems to raise his game to another level when challenged by better competition (see 2013 Notre Dame and Ohio State games) and takes well to hard coaching. He loves the challenge and is very focused on the field, giving full effort. He plays until the whistle and while aggressive, he plays in control. I really like the "nastiness" that he shows grinding defenders into the ground (see 2013 Connecticut and Minnesota games). He's the type that will not stop blocking even when he has his intended target on the ground, as he consistently keeps his head is on a swivel looking for other defenders. Schofield is a classic overachiever who works very hard in all aspects in the program. He has pretty good self-motivation and does not need to be monitored by the coaching staff. Unlike many linemen, he is not the type that will take long stretches off from training in the offseason. He prides himself on his athletic ability and works hard in the weight room to remain in peak condition.
Schofield has good quickness off the snap and the ability to easily adjust, accelerate and finish. He gets a good jump off the ball and keeps his pads down (most of the time). He is quick to get into position and has the nimble feet to finish off his blocks. He shows field smarts and good explosion coming off the ball in the passing game, but can be shocked and rocked back on his heels vs. a strong bull rush when he gets too tall in his stance. He is much more effective in attempts to gain advantage when he stays low in his pads. He needs to work on his footwork, as at times, he will skip a step coming out of his stance, causing some balance issues on the move, but this only happens occasionally. With his explosion off the ball, he is quick to get position and take the advantage coming off the snap (see 2013 Central Michigan, Minnesota and Penn State games). He is always aggressive when making contact and consistently sets his feet and provides a strong anchor in pass protection.
Schofield is light on his feet for a player his size and could see a quicker path to a starting job if he shifted inside to guard or play right tackle while his body continues to mature. He has fluid lateral movement skills and the feet to move on pulls and get up field. He is quick to redirect, but must learn how to play at a low pad level (loses leverage when he gets too tall). Perhaps due to the system used in the past, he was not known for being the focusing blocker on traps and pulls, but in 2013, he made a "nice living" attacking and neutralizing second level defenders (see 2013 Minnesota and Indiana games). While NFL rookie offensive linemen are usually spending that first year absorbing the intricacies of the game, Schofield's use of sweeps, traps and lead blocking out of the backfield should see him earn more playing time than most first-year players at his skill position in 2014.
Balance/Stays On Feet
Schofield shows a good anchor and balance in his base when he keeps his pads down. He can locate, reach and adjust on linebackers working into the second level (made ten down field blocks in 2013). When he gets tall or fails to open his hips, he will get over-extended at times, but generally plays on his feet. Even when he lunges, he is rarely on the ground. He is developing good field savvy, as he does a good job by using his size and strength to sustain blocks, moving his feet quickly in order to get out in front on pulls and traps. He sustains well working in the trenches and when he locks on to a defender, he is quick to run his feet, playing with a finishing attitude (see 2013 Notre Dame, Indiana and Ohio State contests). The thing that you see on film is that even when he does not get great position, he does an outstanding job using his reach, strength and explosion to finish his blocks.
Schofield is capable of jolting and shocking defenders with his hand punch. He has good natural strength and the ability to knock defenders off the ball coming out of his stance with arms extended. When he stays low in his pads, he creates good movement and uses his body mass to lean into and get underneath the defender to sustain. There are times where he will grab defenders rather than catch in attempts to steer the pass rusher wide, but since his move to right tackle, he has shown the ability to generate very good pop and explosion, as he averaged 8.75 knockdowns per game at right tackle, compared to 4.75 as a left guard. He's a classic mauler, one who loves to attack defenders while gaining good position on contact. He snaps his hips and flashes a very strong hand punch to get movement.
Schofield plays with a good center and base, moving his feet well to stay off the ground and get out in front on traps and pulls. He is a mauler who will use his size to take over blocks and when he stays low in his pads, he can lock on and grind out getting off the snap. He comes off the snap with his back flat, but needs to do a better job of rolling his hips (his hips are loose, but he just lacks technique). With his strength, he has developed good confidence that his hand punch can dominate and drive the defender off the line of scrimmage, but there are times where he will revert to grabbing in attempts to steer the defender. He may overextend some, but has the balance to recover when he gets too erect coming off the line of scrimmage. In 2013, he seemed to have had great success in finishing his blocks, thanks to his strength and athletic agility to readjust and recover when he gets out of position (see 2013 Central Michigan, Connecticut and Indiana games). He showed marked improvement this season when it comes to rolling his hips and driving his legs on a consistent basis. When he is down near the goal-line, more often than not, the tailback will trail Schofield, knowing his blocker flashes a great line surge to get movement (10 of the team's 27 rushing touchdowns were the result of the right tackle delivering the key block).
Schofield is more effective as a drive blocker than in pass protection, but that is mostly due to his team's mediocre performers at the quarterback position (QBs are more noted for making things happen with their feet than through the air). When he bends at the waist instead of his knees, he loses leverage vs. a physical pass rush and can be walked back into the pocket. He is not the type that takes false steps though, as he has too good of a balance when trying to make the reach block. He uses his wingspan well to lock on and wash out the smaller edge rushers and when he plays with consistent footwork, he does a nice job of shuffling his feet to counter the spin moves. He can literally "shock and awe" an opponent with his hand punch (see 2013 Notre Dame and Penn State games) and shows good agility to readjust to a defender's inside moves. You can see on film that he has the good base and lower body flexibility, along with the reach to extend, separate and anchor.
A few reasons teams might regard him as a potential guard candidate is because Schofield pulls with good quickness and body control. He is not the type that will lunge or leave his feet, as he will generally play with a strong base and good balance. He can pivot to adjust to the speed rush and will maintain balance on the move. He has the functional straight-line movement needed when working in space and keeps his head on a swivel, doing a nice job of redirecting to a moving target. You can see on film he has a very good concept for taking proper angles when blocking in the second level. He is quick to land in space and flashes good pop on contact executing the short trap.
Adjust on Linebacker Downfield
Because of his size and nimble feet, Schofield has the ability to generate enough sustained quickness balance to get up to the second level and make contact. He can wheel and cut off defenders in the short area and takes good angles when working in the second level (see 2013 Akron, Indiana and Iowa games). He has that instinctive feel for taking good angles, along with the ability to sustain when in the open field. While aggressive, he still plays with enough patience needed to make adjustments on the move.
Use of Hands/Punch
Schofield can generate a very strong punch with either hand, and it is very rare to see him lunge and collide, rather than lock on and steer. He obviously punches with good force to shock and jolt, and he demonstrates the proper techniques of grabbing and getting underneath the defender. Once he uses his large mitts to latch on, he will win most of those battles. He can lock out with his long arms and does a good job of getting his hands into the chest of the rushers, as his power allows him to consistently jolt with his initial punch. Even when he carries his hands a little too low (at times, see 2013 Michigan State and Nebraska games), he shows enough power behind his strikes to consistently get his man off-balance and then, to the ground.
Schofield is a good student of the game and shows excellent alertness on the field, keeping his head on a swivel to search out other defenders to hit after making the initial block. He has good instincts and vision to adjust to games and schemes, especially when he stays low in his pads, as he is quite effective maintaining position at the point of attack. With his good lateral change of direction agility, it is very rare that he will cross his feet. Even when he overextends, he is light on his feet enough to regain balance. He shows active feet and above average balance working down field, as he is generally alert to his surroundings.
Bryan Bulaga, Green Bay: Schofield is a better athlete than Bulaga and has much longer arms, which NFL line coaches love, but like the Packers blocker, he's a mauler who plays with a nice combination of power, foot quickness, balance and aggression. He is a classic mauler who has had great success as a left tackle, but I feel his quicker path to an NFL starting job could be at right tackle, where he can continue to grow while learning the game. However, with his trap and pulling skills, along with his success stalking second level defenders, he could also fit in nicely as a strong-side guard.
Schofield has the athletic agility and footwork teams are looking for in a system that will feature a mobile quarterback. He plays with outstanding field awareness and very good strength, as he's a very dominant run blocker, thanks to his quickness off the snap and the explosion to create movement. He does a very nice job of getting position on his blocks and shows more than enough hand strength and punch to lock on, steer wide and finish.
Even when he does not get initial position, Schofield has the power base to recover. On the traps and pulls, he shows good agility and speed blocking in the second level. He has made steady progress as a pass protector, as his punch and foot slide lets him mirror the edge rushers. He is quick to react to backside pressure and works well in unison with his guards on fold and combo blocks. Placed in the proper blocking scheme, Schofield is more than ready to be a big contributor at the next level.
In 2013, he became a more dominant run blocker, especially when utilized as a lead blocker out of the backfield for the ground game. He shows good quickness off the snap, along with explosion to create movement. He plays with outstanding effort and does a good job of positioning on his blocks, along with the ability to consistently finish.
Dave-Te' Thomas has more than 40 years of experience scouting for the NFL. With the NFL Draft Report, Thomas handles a staff that evaluates and tests college players before the draft and prepares the NFL's official Draft Packet, which is distributed to all 32 teams prior to the draft. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.