Most Important Badgers No. 11: Joe Schobert

Joe Schobert played in all 13 games for Wisconsin last season and had 24 tackles.

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No. 11 — Joe Schobert, linebacker

Why he’s No. 11

Schobert’s story is like many one-time overlooked players who go on to excel in Wisconsin’s football program. He did not receive a single Division I scholarship offer and drew only mild interest from the Badgers despite a stellar high school career in the state. Schobert was a two-time all-state selection as a free safety and running back at Waukesha West who rushed for more than 3,800 yards with 51 touchdowns and broke former Wisconsin tailback John Clay’s state championship record with 296 yards rushing in the 2010 WIAA Division I title game.

Despite all those numbers, he was still headed to play for North Dakota before a last-minute phone call from former coach Bret Bielema changed the course of Schobert’s football career. And what a find it was.

Schobert, a junior-to-be, already has established himself as one of the team’s most explosive linebackers. He’s expected to take a giant leap at inside linebacker in 2014 now that Chris Borland has moved on to the NFL. At the start of spring practices, Schobert moved from outside linebacker to inside linebacker to try and fill the void left behind by Borland.

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"On the outside, you pretty much either hold the edge or you’re splattering somebody," Schobert said this spring. "You really only have like two or three responsibilities. On the inside, depending on call or formation, you have certain gaps you have to play."

Expectations for 2014

Schobert played in all 13 games last season and made 24 tackles. But those numbers should jump now that Schobert is a starter. Borland led the team last season with 112 tackles, while fellow linebackers Ethan Armstrong (51 tackles) and Conor O’Neill (41 tackles) ranked third and fourth, respectively, in total tackles. With all three gone, that means there are plenty of tackles to be had by a starting linebacker group that should feature Schobert, Derek Landisch, Marcus Trotter and Vince Biegel.

"We lost a lot of experience, a lot of good players," Schobert said. "But I think we have the potential to be a really fast, athletic group this year. We’re replacing those guys. Hopefully we’ll get that experience right away. I think everybody who’s going to be playing has played in games. So we know what it’s like to travel, to play in games. Most of them have started at least a couple.

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"I do expect us to be a little bit faster, probably a little more athletic. Hopefully that’ll help take over for that experience we’re losing."

What would they do without him?

This is a role Schobert has been waiting on for two years, and he’s ready to excel in Wisconsin’s 3-4 defense. There isn’t any player who can step in and be Chris Borland, but Schobert represents Wisconsin’s best hope for a player with both freak athleticism and toughness to wreak havoc on opposing offenses.

Wisconsin’s front seven may look different in 2014, but the talent is there, and Schobert will be leading that charge.

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