Hidden Talents: Jeff Schoettmer, the Star Coverage Linebacker


Hidden Talents is a series on Keeping It Heel covering some of the “hidden” football talents of UNC Football’s players on the field. Obviously, the talent isn’t hidden, rather more underappreciated than anything else. KIH wants to bring these skill sets into the light and reward some of the lesser known abilities of UNC players. 

Jeff Schoettmer is well-known for his talents as a run stopping linebacker. The long-haired Texan was Carolina’s leading tackler last season with 74 tackles. However, he is also UNC’s best linebacker in pass coverage. He had two interceptions last season and four pass breakups, both two of the better marks on the team for any player, not just linebackers. Today, Keeping It Heel takes a look at Schoettmer’s work in the passing game and brings into the light one of Mr. Schoettmer’s hidden talents on the football field.

Schoettmer came into Carolina as a lightly recruited, non-scholarship safety. However, as Harold Gutmann outlined in this August 2013 profile of Schoettmer, injuries forced the youngster into action and soon he found himself working with the 1s as the starting inside linebacker.

Schoettmer excelled at linebacker but still remembered his ball-hawking skills he learned as high school as a safety. As a prep player, Schoettmer had eight interceptions and countless pass breakups, and hasn’t lost a step in terms of coverage despite adding more weight to play linebacker for the Tar Heels.

His two interceptions last season were both pick-sixes and were nice plays. Let’s take a look at the first one against Liberty.

First off, notice the score here — UNC is only up six points against lowly Liberty, and it is late in the third quarter. The Heels needed a spark, and this big play provided one.

Schoettmer does an excellent job here of reading the QB’s eyes. After the play action fake, Schoettmer’s eyes go straight to the quarterback, reading his eyes to see where the ball will go.

He also displays a lot of athleticism and football instinct that not every linebacker has. Schoettmer goes up and gets the ball, as this was by no means an easy pick. He also doesn’t celebrate or do anything silly — he takes off for the end zone right away and ends up with the easy score.

Here’s the next INT versus Notre Dame.

This pick is less of an athletic play and more of a former safety making a really smart play on the ball. ND’s wide out runs a simple seven yards out pattern, and Schoettmer is all over it, jumping the route and taking the pick all the way back for a touchdown. This play also requires a lot of football smarts that some linebackers don’t own. He has to recognize the route and anticipate the throw from Everrett Golson.

The quick score put the Tar Heels up 14-0 very early in the first quarter. It was a great play and gave the defense and the entire team a big confidence boost for the rest of the game.

Looking at the bigger picture for a second, Schoettmer isn’t perfect linebacker by any means. He gets a lot of tackles but is also prone to bad misses, like this play against N.C. State.

(May have to double click to zoom out and see play)

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The starting linebacker and leading tackler of your football team should be better than that. However, Schoettmer can fill gaps in the run game and hang with quicker, faster skill positions receivers in the passing game. Coach Gene Chizik has to be pleased with the skill set that number 10 has and must be excited to see what he can do in his senior season.

In that senior season, I’m expecting Schoettmer to be UNC’s best defensive player. He has to improve on cutting down on missed tackles and in getting after the quarterback a bit more (just five QB hurries last season), but he will make a few interceptions and game-changing plays in the passing game that will be huge in helping the Tar Heel defense on the field.

When Schoettmer records his next pick six, don’t be caught off guard by the senior captain’s “hidden talent.”