I'm doing something a little different with the countdown today. The next two players on the list are JK Schaffer and Derek Wolfe. I had a hard time separating them while making the list. When I thought about who should go where, the thought struck me that these two have been entwined their whole careers. They both starting playing in 2008. They both ended their careers in the Liberty Bowl. Both are in NFL camps right now. It's hard to separate one from the other because Wolfe and Schaffer have been bonded together in their Bearcat experience. It would only be awkward if they really hated each other and when they read this (not ever going to happen) they fly into fits of rage and come to my house to beat me with a sock full of nickels. The pure joy of such a beating could bring them together. Just like they are on the countdown.
There is one other issue for this as well. Writing about defensive players is a lot different than writing about a receiver or a quarterback. Sure, they all have stats, but the results are different. Derek Wolfe had a huge impact on games by disrupting the line and drawing double teams that freed up teammates. But that doesn't show up on the stat sheet. There is a lot of credit to be given and a lot of praise to be thrown out, for sure. But there is nothing in the stat lines that says that. We know it happened, but my memory is not good enough for the exact instances in which it did happen. Things aren't as comprehensive. That doesn't take away from the players greatness, but it does take some words out.
JK Schaffer is one of 5 Bearcats to have at least 100 tackles in 3 straight seasons. He was the captain of this last Bearcats team. He earned honors as an All-Big East selection in 2010 (second team) and 2011, when he made the first team. Bearcat fans knew that as long as JK was on the field, things wouldn't go horribly wrong. Lots of players have strong motors, but it felt like we could see JK's going every play. He's a Cincinnati guy who became a top Bearcat.
JK Schaffer started his UC career as a special team maven. He had 12 tackles. He had 1 against EKU, 2 against Miami, 1 against Akron, 1 against Marshall, 1 against Rutgers, 1 against West Virginia and 1 against Louisville. JK got 3 in the Big East clinching win over Syracuse. Schaffer broke up a pass in the Miami game. JK forced a fumble on his tackle against Akron. Akron recovered it though. In a horrible insult, UC misspelled his name in the Akron stats. Only 1 f. I'm sure if JK had a response to that, it would involve only 1 f as well. His final stat line was 12 tackles, 1 forced fumble, 1 pass broken up.
Schaffer didn't start the Rutgers game to begin the 2009 season. He played against Rutgers though. He picked off a pass late in the second quarter that set up a TD to make it 31-7. The following week against Southeast Missouri State, JK Schaffer entered the starting lineup. He would start every game the rest of his career. Schaffer recorded 4 tackles in that game. Schaffer made a huge play the following week against Oregon State. He picked off a pass with 5:24 left and the Beavers driving. UC was able to work nearly 4 minutes off the clock and hold on for a 28-18 win. Schaffer added 8 tackles. JK had 9 stops the following week. He had 8 tackles against Miami, but made a much bigger play. With a minute left in the 3rd quarter and Miami at the 3 and UC up 10, Schaffer picked off Zac Dysert in the end zone. Miami never threatened again and UC won by 24.
JK kept putting together solid games. He had 5 tackles against USF. He recorded his first sack, although it was only half a sack, against Louisville the following week. He had 8 solo tackles against Syracuse, 8 tackles against UConn and 8 more against West Virginia. JK exploded against Illinois. He put down 14 Illini players in the UC win. It was the first double digit tackle day of his career. Schaffer had his first sack of his career against Pitt. He added 8 tackles to that for a 9 stop day. He ended the season with 10 tackles against Florida.
JK Schaffer finished his sophomore year with 100 tackles, 5.5 for loss, 1.5 sacks, 3 INTs, 3 passes broken up. He was second on the team in tackles behind Andre Revels. He was second on the team in INTs behind Aaron Webster's 4. It was a breakout year.
The junior year for JK Schaffer started with 7 tackles against Fresno State. He had a solid 9 in the first win of the Butch Jones era against Indiana State, with 1 TFL (tackle for loss). Cincinnati lost the next week at NC State, but through no fault of Schaffer's. He had a part in 16 tackles, 0.5 TFL, in the game. It was his career high. JK had a monster game the next week against #8 Oklahoma. He had 12 tackles, but swung the game a big way. He picked off a Landry Jones pass that enabled UC to cut the lead to 24-22. JK followed with just 4 tackles against Miami. He had 7 against Louisville and 4 again the next week against USF. Schaffer had a nice stat line in the UC loss to Syracuse, 9 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble. JK matched his career high of 16 tackles against West Virginia. He had 1 TFL and forced a fumble. It was for naught because UC was killed. Schaffer had 7 tackles, 2 of which were sacks, against Rutgers in a UC win. That was his career high in a game. JK had 9 more tackles and 2 more TFL against UConn and 10 tackles against Pittsburgh.
The 111 tackle, 9.5 TFL, 3 sack, 1 INT, 2 forced fumbles, 5 pass breakup season was good enough to earn JK Schaffer second team All-Big East honors. He led the team in tackles.
Few players are voted unanimously as captain by their teammates. This honor was bestowed upon JK his senior season. He showed how much he appreciated it by picking off an Austin Peay pass in the first defensive series of the season. Schaffer had 12 tackles the following week against Tennessee. With UC back home against Akron, Schaffer picked off another pass. It set up another Bearcat touchdown. That's all his interceptions ever did. Don't believe that claim? The following week against NC State, Schaffer picked off a pass deep in Bearcat territory that UC would eventually score on to make it 21-0. JK added 9 tackles to that performance and was named Big East defensive player of the week.
JK scored his first TD against Miami. Off a mishandled snap on a punt, Schaffer took the ball 17 yards into the end zone. He had 3 TFL against the Redhawks, including 1 sack. Schaffer had a sack the next week against Louisville as part of an 11 tackle day. JK recovered a fumble against USF and had 8 tackles in that win. Schaffer had 13 tackles against Pitt. He stopped 9, 2 TFL, against West Virginia. The UC defense was hammered pretty badly against Rutgers, but JK had 13 tackles, 3 TFL and 1.5 sacks. He forced a fumble against Syracuse. JK forced another the next week against UConn, and recovered it. He had 11 tackles in the game that got UC a share of the Big East title. He ended his UC career with 6 tackles, 1 sack, against Vanderbilt.
For the second straight year, JK led UC in tackles. He had a career best 114. He had 13 tackles for loss, which was second on the team.. His 4.5 sacks were a career high. His 3 INTs matched his career high. They also were tied for the team lead. He was named to the All-Big East First Team.
JK Schaffer finished his UC career with 337 tackles, 28 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks. and 7 INTs.
Why He Made the List
JK Schaffer was one hell of a player. He did things that we might not seen done for a while. It takes a special player to start 3 seasons. It takes an extraordinary player to start 3 seasons and have 100 tackles in all 3 of them. Like I said earlier, only 5 players in UC history have accomplished that. One of them was JK Schaffer. I wouldn't be surprised to see his number 37 retired one day.
What He's Doing Now
JK Schaffer is a member of the Jacksonville Jaguars. You can follow him on twitter @Schaff37.
Derek Wolfe might go down as one of the most feared Bearcats of the modern era. He kind of looked like a pro wrestler because of his build. Tino Sunseri would probably say that he was like a pro wrestler because he did clotheslines from Hell to quarterbacks. Derek Wolfe is one of the best in Bearcat history of getting at the quarterback and more importantly, getting in the backfield. The man was a force of nature. UC has had a recent trend of big time pass rushers. Wolfe fits right in.
Wolfe's college career didn't get off to an amazing start. He had a tackle in his first game against Eastern Kentucky. He made a tackle against Marshall. His shining moment was his first career sack. That was very memorable to a lot of Bearcat fans because it was the last play of the Syracuse game, which gave UC their first Big East title and sent them to the Orange Bowl. Wolfe had 3 tackles that season and 1 sack. It was a very memorable play.
Derek started every game his sophomore season and every game the rest of his career. He started off with 2 tackles in the season opener, added 3 more, 1 TFL, and half a sack against Oregon State. Wolfe made 8 stops against Fresno State. He picked up his first multiple sack game against Miami by sacking Zac Dysert twice. He had another half sack against USF and another full one against Louisville. He forced the first fumble of his career and got the first fumble recovery of his career the following week at Syracuse. Wolfe had 2 tackles, 4 tackles, 3 tackles and 5 tackles to close the season. He had a sack against Pittsburgh in the memorable 45-44 win. I want to say he made the sack on the last play of the game. So I will say that.
Wolfe finished the season with 41 tackles, 8 TFL, 5 sacks, 1 forced fumble and 1 fumble recovery. He was 12th on the team in tackles. Wolfe was tied for 5th in tackles for loss. He was second on the team in sacks behind Alex Daniels. The building blocks were there for the future.
8 tackles against Fresno State was something Derek Wolfe accomplished in both outings against Fresno State. He opened 2010 with 8 of them. He had 1 sack in that game. Wolfe had 5 tackles against Indiana State, but just 2 against NC State. He had 5, 1 TFL, against Oklahoma. Derek was shut out against Miami. Teams were playing him much differently and he had a tough adjustment period. Wolfe got on the board with a sack against Lousville, but had 2 tackles against USF and none against Syracuse. It was then he went into overdrive. Wolfe had 7 tackles against West Virginia with 1 sack. He had another sack against Rutgers. He had 6 tackles against UConn. He closed the year with 7 tackles, 1 TFL against Pitt.
The final season numbers were 48 tackles, 6.5 TFL, and 4 sacks. Derek was 7th on the team in tackles. He was 6th in tackles for loss. Wolfe was third on the team in sacks. He picked up momentum as the season went along, but it was kind of a disappointing season. It would be motivation.
I don't actually know if his junior year was motivation, but Derek Wolfe was not the same player in 2011. He opened the year with a sack and a forced fumble. The forced fumble directly resulted in a Cincinnati touchdown. Wolfe had 4 tackles, 1.5 TFL and recovered a fumble against Tennessee. He had 2 sacks against Akron and forced another fumble. Wolfe got a sack against NC State the following week. He had 6 stops against Miami, 1.5 for loss. Derek Wolfe set a career high in tackles against Louisville. He had 11 tackles. 3 of them were for loss. 1 of those was a sack. He had multiple hurries. It was a dynamic performance. Wolfe recovered a fumble against USF, then went back to sacking people. He got Pittsburgh twice, 1 pictured. He had 5 tackles against WVU, 2.5 of them for loss. He also broke up a pass. Wolfe was a part of 10 tackles against Rutgers. He had 2 tackles and 2 hurries against Syracuse. Derek Wolfe had the best game of his career in the regular season finale against UConn. He had 10 tackles. 5 of those were for loss. 2.5 of those were sacks. Those were his career highs for tackles for loss and sacks in a game. Wolfe added 2 more tackles for loss and 6 tackles in the Liberty Bowl win over Vandy.
Derek Wolfe had 70 tackles, 21.5 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks, 6 hurries, 2 forced fumbles, 2 fumbles recovered, 1 pass broken up. I can not stress how much he disrupted plays with his penetration. He was a defensive game changer. Wolfe was 4th on the team in tackles, first in tackles for loss, first in sacks, and second in hurries. He was named the co-Big East Defensive Player of the Year. Wolfe was on the first team All-Big East squad. Derek earned national honors. He was named second team All-American by the AP, Scout, SI and Yahoo.
Wolfe finished his UC career with 162 tackles. He had 37 tackles for loss. He had 19.5 sacks.
Why He Made the List
Derek Wolfe is 4th all time at UC in sacks. He's 10th all time in tackles for loss. He won the battle of recency bias over Trent Cole and Antwan Peek. Trent Cole is probably the biggest exception on this list. In hindsight, he probably should have been on instead of someone lower on the list like a Dion Dixon. But, I kind of forgot about him when I made the list. I did not forget about Derek Wolfe. His career happened most recently so it was on my mind. Trent Cole played at UC during the C-USA days. Peek the early 2000s. If it makes you feel better, use Wolfe as your placeholder for the pass rushers that came before him.
What He's Doing Now
Derek Wolfe was drafted in the second round by the Denver Broncos. He is on twitter @DerekWolfe95.
Photo of Schaffer and Wolfe via