Joe Schobert is making the absolute most of his Senior year in Madison. A former walk-on from Waukesha, Schobert currently leads the nation in sacks and tackles for loss; an unforeseen event for even most diehard Badger fans. The reserved roommate of the more emotional Badger EDGE prospect Vince Biegel, Schobert is no longer an under the radar prospect.
Four years ago, Schobert was one day away from heading out to Fargo, ND, to play for the Bison, when Bret Bielema offered Schobert a walk-on opportunity for the Badgers, and Joe “The Show” switched his commitment from NDSU to UW. Initially intended to be a Runningback, Schobert was moved to Outside Linebacker in Dave Aranda’s 3-4 scheme and he has been solid ever since. As a starter last year Schobert played well, but he has really come into his own as a pass rusher during his senior campaign. He’s had his best two games this season against the Badgers toughest competition: Alabama and Iowa. This article will focus on the Iowa game specifically.
Last week, the Badgers limped to a 10-6 loss to the Iowa Hawkeyes, but Schobert’s performance, along with the rest of the Badger defense, cannot go overlooked. Schobert had 3 sacks, 3.5 Tackles For Loss, 2 Forced Fumbles and a Fumble Recovery. The Iowa offense didn’t get into Wisconsin territory during the 2nd half, and only accumulated 221 yards of total offense for the game.
Joe Schobert has pretty good size at 6’2″ and 239 pounds. He’s also got the frame to pack on some NFL weight if needed. Schobert usually plays the boundary side Outside Linebacker in Aranda’s 3-4 defense. The thing that has made Schobert’s strong start to the season even more impressive is that he wears many hats for the Badgers, often being asked to drop into coverage, as well as rush the passer. The main cog in Schobert’s game is that he’s an extremely efficient player.
On the first play of the game for the Badgers defense, Schobert bluffs playing the apex between the box and the slot receiver, before coming on a blitz. As soon as he recognizes that it’s a run, he scrapes tight behind the line of scrimmage to optimize his pursuit angle, which results in a TFL with teammate Chikwe Obasih. Schobert is a good athlete, but being efficient in his movements allows him to get the most out of his abilities.
Later in the drive, Schobert is put in a position of limbo. He’s playing the flat in a zone defense, however he recognizes the Quarterback rolling out, and rather than attempt to play both the Fullback out of the backfield and passer, he attacks C.J. Beathard and forces a bad throw, knowing he had help behind him. Aranda preaches an aggressive type of defense, and Schobert is personifying that in this play. This is a play that commonly would allow yards, as the Quarterback would dictate the Linebacker’s movements, not vice versa. This play is made by a veteran Linebacker who has been well coached.
Schobert, identified by the red arrow (above), is splitting a double team by the two Iowa Tight Ends on this play later in the 1st Quarter. Schobert is more often than not a tough block in the run game if he’s not just playing a contain responsibility. On this carry, although the back falls forward for a few yards, Schobert tripping him up saved the defense a few yards. He also displays that a combination block not involving Offensive Linemen can’t effectively stop Schobert every time. He’ll demand more attention.
On Iowa’s next possession, they start the drive with a simple Inside Zone play. Schobert is playing in the boundary at the top of the screen. It may appear as though Schobert is hesitant to automatically scream down the line to pursue the back, and he is, for good reason. C.J. Beathard, Iowa’s Quarterback, is a good athlete for the position, and can threaten the defense for yardage as a runner. Schobert slow plays on the back side of the run play, as Beathard carries out a roll out fake to the defensive left side. As soon as he identifies that Beathard doesn’t have the ball, Schobert pinches down the edge, and makes a play on the Runningback. Again, giving up a few yards, but not allowing a big play, as Iowa’s Offensive Line had blocked the play pretty well, opening the cutback alley on the backside of the run, which Schobert would close.
After a few effective runs by Iowa, they decide to pass on a 1st and 10. Schobert is playing in the boundary on the bottom of the screen, and after taking his initial first steps forward, realizes that it’s a pass, and jumps into coverage on the Tight End in his crossing route. Schobert is an explosive athlete, and it’s evident on this play, as he goes from a stand still and kind of leaps into motion following the Iowa player. He then uses his speed to recover and defend the route. The play ends in a scramble by the Iowa Quarterback, making it even more evident that Schobert was watching for a run earlier in the game.
This is the last play of the first half, and Schobert’s pass rush prowess is on full display here. Using his burst and speed off of the edge, he forces the less athletic Right Tackle to turn his shoulders, allowing a two-way-go for Schobert. This is illustrated by the two lines pointing in the two ways Schobert could go. The red arrow is pointed toward what’s supposed to be the Lineman’s kick foot, or back most foot. Schobert used good leverage on the edge, getting lower than the Right Tackle. The Tackle getting too high compromises his balance, and Schobert converts speed to power, tossing the Lineman aside and sacking Beathard to end the half.
A big part of playing Linebacker is trusting what you see, and reading your “keys”, or offensive tells based on their tendencies. In this play, Schobert is unblocked. Rather than be tentative and try and play in the middle, he blitzes Beathard and forces a bad throw on a screen pass that was set up well.
On Wisconsin’s next defensive possession, Schobert attacks the Tight End who’s assigned to block him, and using his hands, knifes inside of the blocker and trips up the ball carrier. Even with inside leverage, the Tight End can’t keep Schobert from crossing his face into the backfield. Explosion like this is encouraging when projecting Schobert to the next level, as in a 3-4 scheme he will often be asked to be the primary contain defender in run fits.
Schobert’s ability to be productive without generating sacks is also valuable. Demonstrated here, Schobert can’t get the sack, but he forces an overthrow, picked off by Badger captain Michael Caputo. I mentioned earlier that Schobert is hyper efficient as a player, rarely wasting motion that’s not necessary. On this play, he runs a loop stunt, using the Inside Linebacker and Defensive End’s slant as picks on the Offensive Linemen in order to create a rush lane. Wisconsin’s Nose Tackle drops into coverage on this play, making Iowa’s QB hesitate, allowing the time for Schobert to get to pay dirt. In the picture above, Schobert follows the line on top, a more streamline path to the passer. Because he hugged the “screens” of his fellow defenders, he bought himself more time. Had he bellied, and taken a wider path (the bottom red line), he likely would have collided with the back releasing into a check down. If he hits the back, he doesn’t provide the pressure or hit on Beathard, likely not forcing the turnover.
Now in the 4th Quarter, Schobert makes arguably his biggest play of the game. After giving a jam to the Tight End releasing on route, Schobert draws a Runningback 1 on 1 in pass protection. As we’ve seen throughout the game, a non-Lineman block is rendered ineffective. As illustrated in the image above, Schobert has already thrown the back off balance, as the arrow points to one of the back’s feet being off of the ground. Schobert then simply disposes of the blocker, and uses his closing speed to then strip sack the Iowa QB, and then recover the fumble. Although it wouldn’t lead to a score, it was a huge scoring opportunity made possible by Schobert.
The next defensive possession, after a fumble on the goal line by the Badger offense, the defense faces a critical 3rd and 2. After shortening the edge on the run fake, Schobert feels the Tight End cross his face, ensuring it’s a play action pass. Above shows the End Zone, or Tight, angle of the field. The line on the left of Schobert illustrates where a less aware defender would attack, allowing the Iowa QB outside leverage. Instead, Schobert takes the correct, and in this image, right path. He takes an instant pursuit angle to increase the pressure on the Quarterback using his explosion and closing speed. He also has the wherewithal to use the end zone as an extra defender, as the QB knows he can’t go back into it without the threat of a Safety. Ultimately, Schobert dives at the feet of the passer and forces an errant throw, and a 4th down. It’s evident that Wisconsin’s OLBs are very well coached, two years ago by Defensive Coordinator Dave Aranda, and this year by Tim Tibesar, a former Bears Linebackers coach.
On this play late in the 4th Quarter, Schobert actually gets washed up a bit in the traffic of this outside run play. However, what impressed me most about this play was his tenacity to not stay blocked. The closer the ball got to the sideline, Schobert shed his block and made an urgent play, knowing there wasn’t much time left in the game. Pictured above is Schobert jarring the ball loose from the Iowa runner. The ball would be recovered by the Hawkeyes, but it’s important for impact players to make big plays in the waning moments of a game. Schobert showed the ability to do this here.
On the next play, the Badgers’ last defensive play of the game, Schobert would give his last gasp effort for the home team to win the game. As demonstrated above, Schobert used his get off and explosion to get past the Offensive Tackle. The diagonal line is used to demonstrate the “bend” in Schobert’s hips that he displays, offering encouragement for the future that he can do the same at the next level. After clearing the Tackle here, he was able to trip up Beathard for his third and final sack of the day.
I found it interesting, and Brock Huard offered his commentary during the last clip of the video, talking about an “arrogance” of Iowa to continually put Schobert in 1-on-1 pass rushing situations, either against Offensive Linemen or Backs and Tight Ends. Schobert, with nine sacks in five games, will be sure to attract more double teams and attention in the future.
With this year’s production, Joe “The Show” has likely gone from an undrafted free agent (UDFA) prospect, to as of right now, a mid-round, early Day 3 prospect. He displays everything you look for in an outside linebacker in a 3-4; strength to anchor against the run, the athleticism and speed to get after the quarterback. He also covers well on tight ends and backs out of the backfield. I look forward to the rest of the year to see his further production. Schobert is a great example of how much it can benefit a player to stick around for all four years of college. Through great coaching and athletic and strength development, he’s gone from a near after-thought to a likely drafted player, and leader on a defense with at least 4 or 5 other future pros on it.
I’d like to give credit to Rob Donaldson from On The Clock Football for cutting up this game film, and putting it on Draftbreakdown.com, an excellent resource for anyone looking for film on this years prospects. I’d also like to thank Justis Mosqueda, @Jumosq, for this article format. I basically stole it from him and his work on forceplayers.com, another great resource for football fans, especially those interested in athletic metrics. Give him a follow, he writes good stuff.
I’m unsure of how many of these articles I’ll put out the rest of the season, but I look forward to many more articles like this throughout the offseason and draft process.