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LB Schaffer delivers for UC


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[quote]September 30, 2009

The first time University of Cincinnati football coach Brian Kelly saw linebacker JK Schaffer at UC’s summer camp, he knew he was looking at something special.

“He was the home run,” Kelly said. “He had it all. He had good grades and great character. He was tough and really extremely athletic. That was an easy one. You offer him and you hope that he stays with you.”

Kelly didn’t have to worry about losing Schaffer to another school. If offering him a scholarship was a no-brainer for the UC coaching staff, accepting it took Schaffer all of about 2 seconds.

“Ever since I was a little kid I loved watching UC play,” Schaffer said. “I loved going to the games. All through the recruiting process I said UC was the place I wanted to play. I didn’t care who else was recruiting me. I just wanted to play for the Bearcats. It’s just something about Cincinnati that holds a special place in my heart.”

It wasn’t like Schaffer was inundated with offers from other BCS schools. He was recruited by Ohio, Miami and a little bit by Kentucky. That was about it.

Schaffer, a 6-foot-1, 223-pound sophomore, was such a low-rated recruit that Kelly said one of the recruiting services didn’t rate him at all.

“They didn’t know about him,” Kelly said.

But the UC coaching staff knew plenty about him. Schaffer was a first-team all-Ohio selection. He was the Greater Catholic League linebacker of the year playing at La Salle High School after making 150 tackles, including 26 for loss and 13 sacks as a senior in 2007.

His biggest flaw as a college prospect was his lack of speed and he took care of that the same way he approaches everything else – through hard work.

“He was very conscientious about doing the extra things to make himself better,” said La Salle coach Tom Grippa. “He worked on speed training. I remember going out in the fall after football season ended his junior year. I timed in the 40 and it was a 4.8, so we started speed training in December. We took a little time off when the weather got bad, then picked it up again in the spring. When he went to summer camps he was running a 4.5.”

When Schaffer arrived at UC last year, he knew the Bearcats had a veteran defense that would be difficult to crack, so he hit the weight room, studied the defensive playbook and made his mark on special teams, waiting for his chance in 2009.

“That was my goal, to be able to come in here my second year and be on the field with the defense,” Schaffer said.

Given the chance he craved, it hasn’t taken him long to establish himself.

“You won’t get him off the field now,” Kelly said. “He’ll keep developing because that’s the kind of kid he is. He’ll continue to get smarter.”

Schaffer did not start UC’s season opener at Rutgers, but he has started every game since at inside linebacker. Last week, in the Bearcats’ victory over Fresno State, he made nine tackles, six unassisted. The previous week he had eight tackles, seven unassisted.

He also has intercepted two passes, tying him with free safety Aaron Webster for the team lead.

“He’s been one of the best players on the field the last three weeks defensively,” Kelly said. “He made a play on an inside receiver against Fresno on third down where he undercut the route and didn’t wrap him, but came over the top with his left hand and knocked the ball out. You just don’t teach some of that stuff.”

Schaffer says he can play a lot better, which is exactly what Kelly is counting on.

“I made a lot of mistakes that come with being a young player,” he said, “that I need to work on that most of the people in the stands don’t really see. I love playing the game. I’ve been working my butt off all my life for it. I’m just giving everything I’ve got for the defense, trying to make as big of an impact as I can for them.”[/quote]

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