Taking a look at Arizona LB Colin Schooler's 10 tackles for loss

Arizona linebacker Colin Schooler tackles Oregon State wide receiver Trevon Bradford during the second half.Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Sumlin: Schooler is 'faster than you think'

Back in fall camp, Arizona offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone was asked if he had noticed anybody in particular on the other side of the ball for the Wildcats.

"Yeah, that dang No. 7," Mazzone said. "I wish we would block him once in a while. I need to put more plays in where we block him."

Arizona's first four opponents have a similar lament.

Colin Schooler, a sophomore, is tied for fourth in the Pac-12 with 11.0 tackles per game, and he's tied for first nationally with in tackles for loss with 2.5 per game. No other Wildcat has made as many as 10 tackles for loss through the first four games of a season since at least 1997, according to the UA media relations office.

"He makes a lot of plays," coach Kevin Sumlin said Monday.

"He's a tenacious player. He's faster than you think he is, faster than a lot of people think he is."

Sumlin said the team is using wearable GPS technology that can that track a player's speed and distance during practice and game days, which helps evaluations and player safety. Sumlin says the staff knows "when things get a little iffy when pushing too much" and that the data "really gives us an opportunity to limit soft tissue injuries based on the distance and the speeds a guy has during the week."

Anyway, the info says Schooler's burst has been clocked in the 20 miles-per-hour range.

"He can do that consistently. Doesn't look like it, but that's pretty fast," Sumlin said. "When you're talking about some of the fastest people on the field, that's 22 miles an hour."

Schooler is listed this season at 6-foot, 236 pounds, which is officially an increase in 10 pounds from last season, when he made 95 tackles and earned Pac-12 Defensive Freshman of the Year honors. His 13.5 tackles for loss last season all came during conference play.

Schooler, Arizona's MIKE linebacker, is the son of a high school coach, Tom Schooler, and the younger brother of Oregon receiver Brenden Schooler.

"He's a knowledgeable guy," Sumlin said of Colin.

"He's a great communicator on the sideline. A great communicator with his teammates. And he loves to play the game. Football is in his blood, obviously. His kind of energy, his kind of play, is contagious."

I took a look at all 10 of Schooler's 10 tackles for loss this season. He does flash that speed, but it's his ability to diagnosis that also stands out. Here they are:

VS. BYU

* 2nd-and-10: Schooler chases down BYU quarterback Tanner Mangum from the back side for a loss of 2 on a busted play in which Mangum took off toward the right sideline.

VS. HOUSTON

* 1st-and-10: He comes off the left edge of the offensive line to track down running back Patrick Carr on rush to the other side. Loss of 4.

* 1st-and-10: Schooler follows defensive end Justin Belknap, who occupied two potential blockers, into the backfield to tackle running back Mulbah Car for loss of 2 yards off right tackle.

* 1st-and-10: Schooler burrows through traffic and squeezes through the left side of the line while linemen Finton Connelly and Abraham Maiava hold up the middle, giving the linebacker enough time to tackle Mulbah Car on a rush up the middle for a safety and 1-yard loss.

VS. SOUTHERN UTAH

* 3rd-and-7: The left tackle tries to get to the second level, but Schooler works off the block to the outside and still has the time and the speed to wrap on running back Jay Green on a slow-developing counter.

* 1st-and-10: Schooler shows the whole skill set, diagnosing the quarterback read, recognizing the QB keep and instantly accelerating inside the block of the tight end, who could only shove Schooler in the back as he made the tackle for a loss of 2 yards.

VS. OREGON STATE

* 1st-and-10: Linemen Finton Connelly and Jalen Cochran keep their blockers occupied one-on-one while the tight end kicks out to block safety Tristan Cooper. Schooler has eyes on it all the way, blasting through the hole and tackle running back Jermar Jefferson for a loss of 2.

* 1st-and-10: Arizona shows a different look, with Schooler standing up at the line of scrimmage, outside of left end JB Brown. When Brown loops inside, the right tackle takes on defensive tackle Dereck Boles with Schooler charging and bending off the edge to wrap up the legs of Conor Blount for a 4-yard sack.

* 1st-and-10: Schooler simply beats the left guard to the spot, slips under the whiff of a block and pivots back inside for a solo stop on Jefferson for a loss of 2.

* 2nd-and-7: A good push by the defensive line forces Jefferson to run wide to his right, and Schooler has the speed to track and wrap up the running back's ankles for a loss of 1.

Schooler, since he arrived on the campus with the "too small, too slow, too under-recruited" tag has been considered Scooby Wright 2.0. Schooler isn't used in the same way -- Wright became a dangerous edge rusher in passing situations, moving from his inside position -- but the production is there.

Schooler has 23.5 career tackles for loss in 17 games.

In addition to the 10 tackles for loss this season, he has four quarterback hurries and a pass break-up.

"Colin is the quarterback of the defense and knows what to do and knows how to do it now in his second year," Sumlin said. "And he does it at a high level every week."

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