Photo of Owen Schmitt
Grade
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  • 26 REPS
    Top Performer
  • 6'2" Height
  • 250LBS. Weight

Overview

Even though he was sometimes a forgotten man in a loaded backfield, few could argue that Schmitt was perhaps the team's most important player throughout his three seasons in the program. His devastating blocks and ability to play both fullback and tight end brought back memories of football's glory years for professional scouts watching him play. Most agree he is a throwback to an era where the fullback knew his role -- deliver devastating blocks.

Schmitt is a powerhouse with a running style that dares defenders to try and stop him. Through 353 career rushing attempts, he has been tackled for a loss just four times. Whether it is getting the tough yardage near the goal line, clearing a rush lane or catching the ball out of the backfield, Schmitt is more than up to any task the coaches ask from him. Evident of that was a new wrinkle that he added to his game as a senior -- handling "pooch" punting duties.

At Fairfax High School, Schmitt earned unanimous All-Conference and Liberty District Most Valuable Player accolades. The tough tailback led the conference in rushing and also served as team captain. He excelled in baseball, picking up All-District and All-Region recognition in that sport.

Schmitt had a rough childhood. He and his mother, Serena Drangle, constantly moved and, during one stretch, the pair was forced to sleep in their car. This caused Schmitt's academics to suffer and he failed to qualify for a spot at the University of Maryland after graduating from high school. He enrolled at Wisconsin-River Falls in 2003, where he became an immediate fan favorite.

That season, Schmitt earned All-Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference honors, as he ranked third in the league and led the team with 193 carries for 1,063 yards (5.5-yard average) and five touchdowns in nine starting assignments. He also caught two passes for 10 yards, amassing 1,073 all-purpose yards.

Schmitt left UW-River Falls after that season, joining the West Virginia program as a walk-on. Under NCAA transfer rules, he was forced to sit out the 2004 season. In 2005, he started six games at fullback, while also lining up at the tailback and tight end positions. An Iron Mountaineer Award winner for his performances in the weight room, the versatile athlete collected 380 yards on 48 attempts (7.9-yard average) with two touchdowns, as the opposition failed to tackle him for a loss on any play. He also caught eight passes for 76 yards (9.5-yard average) and returned a kickoff 20 yards.

As a junior, he started four of the 13 contests in which he played, seeing action mostly at fullback, but he also lined up at tight end and tailback. He earned All-American second-team honors from The NFL Draft Report and Scout.com, and was the recipient of the Whitey Gwynne Award, given by the WVU coaches to the team's unsung hero. He added NSCA Strength All-American honors, bulking up to 260 pounds from 245 during the offseason.

Schmitt ran for 351 yards and seven touchdowns on 65 carries (5.4-yard average) and was stopped for a loss on only one carry. He caught 12 passes for 91 yards (7.6 avg) with a score, recorded one solo tackle and returned a kickoff 14 yards. He also collected 87 knockdowns, including 16 touchdown-resulting blocks.

In 2007, Schmitt was an All-American first-team pick by The NFL Draft Report and selected by the coaching staff for the Ira E. Rodgers Award. He received All-Big East Conference second-team honors from Rivals.com, as he continued to dominate as a blocker, coming up with 106 knockdowns and 17 touchdown-resulting blocks.

Schmitt started 11 of 13 games at fullback, rushing 47 times for 272 yards (5.8-yard average) and four touchdowns while getting tackled just once behind the line of scrimmage. He finished fourth on the team with 12 receptions for 121 yards (10.1-yard average) and a score while also having two of three punts downed inside the 20-yard line, finishing with a 20.3-yard average and one solo tackle.

With the success of the West Virginia running game, thanks to Schmitt's blocking -- he broke 10 facemasks over the last three years -- the national media turned him into a favorite. Bruce Feldman, a senior writer at ESPN the Magazine stated, "Truth is, no one better epitomizes the rugged image of this blue-collar program that literally pounded its way to respect." Ivan Maisel of ESPN.com chimed in, "Fullback is an anachronism in the modern offense. Guys like Schmitt may spearhead a comeback."

Mike Wise of the Washington Post wrote, "He rumbles like a beer truck with a broken parking brake." Craig James of the ESPN Network remarked, "He's got a forehead made of steel." Color commentator Gary Danielson said: "This guy is a folk hero in West Virginia. He does it with pure power."

Former head coach Rich Rodriguez also said, "Part of what he did in that (Louisville) game, and what we try to embody in our program, is playing tough and physical all the way from the first play to the last play. That is Owen Schmitt."

In 38 games at West Virginia, Schmitt earned a total of 21 starts, including four at tight end. He carried 160 times for 1,003 yards (6.3-yard average) and 13 touchdowns, as he was tackled for a loss just twice. He caught 32 passes for 288 yards (9.0-yard avg) and two scores, adding 34 yards on two kickoff returns. He punted three times for 61 yards (20.3 avg) with two kicks downed inside the 20-yard line and recorded two solo tackles.

Analysis

Strengths

Positives: Has a thick frame with broad shoulders, good chest definition, good arm length and very thick thighs and calves and, while he's listed at 260 pounds, he could carry more weight without having it impact his quickness...Not explosive out of his stance, but has valid foot speed to get past the second level...Versatile athlete who can carry the ball at tailback, block at fullback, line up in motion as a tight end and also handle "pooch" punting duties...Has excellent durability and toughness, is the type that will play through pain (see 2007 Cincinnati game)...Shows above-average balance and strength in his running stride, with good acceleration and burst...Hard inside runner whose strength easily allows him to move the pile...Runs behind his pads well and is a devastating blocker...One of the hardest workers on the team in practices and the weight room (has won school training awards)...Has a good grasp of the playbook and is quick to pick up schemes on the field...Makes solid game adjustments and is very instinctive moving without the ball in his hands (always looks for targets to attack)...Team-first player who takes well to hard coaching and will excel at whatever task is asked of him (first-to-arrive, last-to-leave type)...Fires out low from his stance to generate better quickness (slower when he gets too narrow in his stance)...Gains advantage by his quickness through the rush lane, keeping his shoulders square to widen and sustain the holes...Not explosive, but does have a valid burst...Is more of a one-cut runner and lacks ideal shake, but he will work to the cutback lanes in the open...Has excellent field vision, easily spotting the seam, using his leg drive to break arm tackles...Now runs at a low pad level, generating better balance and strength while always giving second effort and shows good forward body lean to push the pile...Plays with a loose base, which helps his balance getting through small areas...Has that mentality and power to simply run over defenders, driving hard with his legs churning to fall forward for extra yardage after initial contact...Has strong, large hands and is very conscious of ball security (no fumbles)...Not used much in the passing game, but is quick to get into the short-area patterns and is best used on screens, check-unders, flats and swings)...Has functional agility in his cuts and enough quickness in and out of his break point...Will drift some on longer routes...Does a good job of extending and adjusting to off-target throws or when the ball is behind him...Catches the ball cleanly with his hands instead of his body...Punishing in-line blocker who is alert to stunts and blitzes, doing a nice job also when asked to stalk second level defenders...Best when executing the lead block, showing good adjustment skills picking up moving targets, especially when blocking in space...Consistently strikes his target and works hard to sustain...Will assert himself and face up when taking on pocket pressure...Maintains leverage with his shoulders squared and driving hard with his legs...Plays on all the special teams units and shows a decent kicking leg, doing a nice job of angling his pooch punts. Negatives: Has just adequate cutting agility in the open and is best running between tackles, as he is not always effective at redirecting once he reaches top speed...Is a decent safety valve as a receiver, but is not crisp running routes and tends to drift in and out of his cuts...Not the type that will execute head fakes in attempts to elude, preferring to run over the tacklers than around them...Will run into spots, at times, rather than take a clear lane...Has excellent power to run through arm tackles, but would be even more effective if he ran at a lower pad level...More of a straight-line runner, who is a bit too stiff in his hips to generate much wiggle room. Compares To: LARRY CSONKA-ex-Miami...No, Schmitt is not just a blocking back, even though he will make a nice living doing just that. He proved early in his career that he is capable of getting the tough yardage up the middle of the field and is a runaway truck once he clears the line of scrimmage. He is a decent safety valve coming out of the backfield in the short-area passing game and, much like Csonka and former Bengals' RB Pete Johnson, he is a load to bring down with the ball in his hands. To use him strictly as a blocker is to get great value, but you will then be wasting his other talent. A definite throwback to the Csonka/Jim Taylor (Green Bay) era, Schmitt is the best fullback available for the 2008 draft.
C
Grade Title
9.00-10 Once-in-lifetime player
8.00-8.99 Perennial All-Pro
7.50-7.99 Future All-Pro
7.00-7.49 Pro Bowl-caliber player
6.50-6.99 Chance to become Pro Bowl-caliber player
6.00-6.49 Should become instant starter
5.50-5.99 Chance to become NFL starter
5.20-5.49 NFL backup or special teams potential
5.01-5.19 Better-than-average chance to make NFL roster
5.00 50-50 Chance to make NFL roster
4.75-4.99 Should be in an NFL training camp
4.50-4.74 Chance to be in an NFL training camp
No Grade Likely needs time in developmental league.
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