Green Bay Packers 2016 NFL Draft prospect: Interview with Wisconsin OLB Joe Schobert
By Dan Dahlke
Today, we kick off our annual NFL Draft prospect Q&A series with Wisconsin native and former Badger outside linebacker Joe Schobert.
Schobert not only grew up in Waukesha, Wisconsin and always dreamt of playing for the Badgers, but he also had hopes to someday play in the NFL. And if this dream meant donning the Green and Gold, Schobert would consider himself lucky to play for the college and NFL team he grew up cheering for.
Now, this goal could become a reality this spring as Schobert prepares for the NFL Draft and the start of his professional career.
The Packers have a need at outside linebacker and could use another young pass rusher to create pressure off the edge and eventually replace Julius Peppers opposite Clay Matthews in the lineup.
As a senior, Schobert lit up the college world, finishing fourth in the nation in tackles for loss (14.5) and sixth in sacks (9.5) in nine starts. Lined up across from teammate Vince Biegel, he formed one of the best pass rushing duos in all of college football. Both edge defenders were a big reason Wisconsin was the nation’s second-ranked defense in 2015.
When considering his 14 quarterback hurries and five forced fumbles on top of his incredible sack production, Schobert simply put together one of the most impressive seasons of any defensive player in the FBS this past year.
Many draft analysts, like Rob Rang of CBS Sports, view Schobert as a third or fourth-round pick in the draft, but many also feel he’s one of the more underrated edge rushers in this class and should bring a lot of value to 3-4 teams, like the Packers, looking to add outside linebacker talent.
Because he seems like a great fit for Green Bay, I recently reached out to Schobert to get his thoughts on his game and the draft process.
He was kind enough to take the time to talk with me about his Wisconsin roots, what it meant to be a Badger, and where he’d see himself fitting in the Packers defense if drafted by Green Bay.
Joe Schobert Q&A
Q. First, tell us a little bit about your background. How did you first get into football and what led you to play linebacker, specifically?
JS: I first got into football when I was very young. There are pictures of me as a baby rolling a football around on the floor. And as soon as I was old enough to sign up for the local YMCA flag football team I made my parents sign me up! And, I also played Middle Linebacker growing up as well. I was always one of the more athletic guys on the team and liked to hit people, so my dad (who coached my youth teams defense) put me in the middle!
Q. As a Wisconsin native, what has your time playing for the Badgers meant to you? What has been your favorite part about playing for UW?
JS: It’s been great, obviously growing up in the state it was a dream of mine to one day play for the Badgers. So it makes me very happy to have had this opportunity to represent my state and family on the field here at UW. I think my favorite part of playing for UW is the friendships and connections I have made with my teammates throughout the years here.
Q. You’ve had a very productive senior season, leading your team in sacks and tackles for loss. Your performance against Iowa earlier in the year was particularly impressive. What has been your secret to making so many plays on the field?
JS: First, I think Coach Aranda does a great job of getting people in one-on-one situations in games and this year I have been able to take advantage of those matchups. So not pressing to much and trying to make too many plays doesn’t really help in our defense, just doing your job and trusting the scheme and knowing when you can take chances to make plays is something that I learned and think applied well this past year.
Q. You and fellow linebacker Vince Biegel formed one of the top pass rushing duos in the Big Ten in 2015. What made you two so effective playing together?
JS: Just that we play well off of each other. Vince is more intense and vocal and in your face, while I am a little more relaxed and like to take things as they come to me. So our personalities on the field even out well. I bring him down when he gets too amped up and he picks me up when I am not amped up. Also, we are both very competitive and I think that helps because when Vince makes a big play the next play I want to make a big one and vice versa. And that I think helps our defense because we push each other to be the best we can be.
Q. You’re one of the better edge rushers coming out of college, so define your game for us. What are your strengths as a pass rusher? What do you bring to the field as a run defender?
JS: I think that I play very relaxed. I see what the offense is lining up in and what they are trying to do. I think in terms of pass rush I have a good get off and good speed moves around the edge, and also I can mix it up and catch offensive linemen off guard with a bull rush and inside move as well. As a run defender, I think I do a good job of setting the edge against tight ends and tackles and use my hands well enough to disengage from the blockers and make plays on the ball.
Q. What do you feel is the most underrated part of your game?
JS: I think playing the run is the most underrated part of my game. I do a good job of setting the edge a lot and teams run inside or away so that may not be seen as well, especially as the season progressed and teams didn’t try to challenge Vince and I on the edges as much.
Q. Are there any NFL players (past or present) that you study, model your game after, or draw comparisons to?
JS: I like to study Clay Matthews and Von Miller the most, and while they are both extremely good football players, I know I can’t just be them by watching their games. I have to apply what I see. There are things I like to try when I see them do it in a game, like how they use their hands to beat tackles in pass rush and use their punch or how they disengage defenders in the run game as well.
Q. With the draft steadily approaching, what areas and of your game would you like to work on improving this spring?
JS: I think I would like to keep working on my explosiveness and my upper body strength. I think that I am more explosive then a lot of people give me credit for. There is still a lot of room for improvement and if I can make that improvement it will help me a lot in the long run. In terms of upper body strength, my upper body has always lagged behind my lower body in terms of strength, and over my college career I have been able to catch it up a bit. However, I would like to keep working on it because if I could improve my upper body strength that would help in situations when I’m engaged with 300-pound offensive tackles.
Q. The Green Bay Packers will be looking to add another pass rusher to their roster this spring, and we feel you’re a guy they may consider in the draft. How would you feel about playing for the Packers if they drafted you?
JS: It would be another dream come true to play for the Packers. Growing up in Wisconsin I have been a Packers fan my whole life, so it would be pretty cool if I were to suit up in the Green and Gold next year.
Q. What could you bring to their defense?
JS: I think I could bring some versatility to their defense in someone who has experience rushing the passer, playing the run and dropping in coverage to play the pass.
Q. The Packers do run a 3-4 scheme on defense. How do you feel you’d fit in this type of system? Do you feel your experience at Wisconsin as a rush backer would help you with this transition?
JS: I personally love playing in a 3-4 defense. I feel like the OLB position is one of the funnest positions on the field to play because of all the different things you can do. Lining up on the end of the line of scrimmage allows you to rush or drop or loop inside on any given play and it keeps the offense guessing. Our defense at Wisconsin is considered a 3-4 with a lot of different and exotic fronts and looks, so I think that will help me when I go on to the next level because I have already seen and played in a lot of different defensive schemes.
Q. What could you learn from veteran players like Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers?
JS: It would be a great opportunity for me to learn from two of the best to ever play their positions, in my opinion. Hopefully they wouldn’t get too annoyed with all the questions I would be asking because I am sure if I had the opportunity to learn from them I would be asking a lot of them!!
Q. Regardless of who drafts you, what will that moment mean to you when you finally hear your name called and you’re officially in the NFL?
JS: Just a dream come true. This is something that I have worked towards and wanted to do for my whole life, so when the day comes it will most likely be one of the happiest days of my life!
Q. What are some goals you will set for yourself in your rookie season in the NFL?
JS: Just to be a contributor in whatever way I can for the team. There will be an intense learning curve in adjusting to the NFL game, so I don’t want to predict or guarantee any numbers. My goal would be to contribute in any way possible to help the team.
Q. Finally, tell us a little bit more about yourself. When you’re away from football, what do you like to do in your free time?
JS: Some of the things I like to do in my free time are read books, hang out with my friends, watch movies and play video games. Some of my favorite books include the Harry Potter series, The Inheritance Cycle, and A Song of Ice and Fire series. As for movies I like a lot of them but some of my all time favorites are the Star Wars movies, the Dark Knight Trilogy and all of the Marvel movies that have come out in the last ten years or so!