Countdown UNC’s 10 Best Players: #3 Jeff Schoettmer


In the days leading up to the start of college football season, Keeping It Heel will be counting down UNC Football’s 10 best players, continuing today with number 3, Jeff Schoettmer. Come back to see who else makes the top 10.

#10 — Dez Lawrence

#9 — Naz Jones

#8 — Jessie Rogers

#7 — T.J. Logan

#6 — Mack Hollins

#5 — Quinshad Davis

#4 — Ryan Switzer

Jeff Schoettmer is a 6’2 265 lb middle linebacker who will be entering his senior and final season at UNC. Though he started his career as a walk-on from Dallas, Texas, he has shown toughness and grit and has become not just the best linebacker on the team, but one of the best in the conference.

What makes Jeff such a valuable teammate is the same thing that makes him an excellent middle linebacker. So what are those things?


This goes without saying, but UNC was horrific at tackling last season. When you give up more than 30 points in 9 or your 13 games, that’s a sign that something isn’t working and in the case of the Heels it was an inability to tackle players usually in open space. Now this would normally imply that Schoettmer wasn’t doing his job, but if you take a look at the following video you will see that’s not the case:

Now you are probably wondering why I was showing highlights from what was easily Carolina’s worse game last year. I know the game was bad, it had me yelling at my TV all afternoon, but these highlights show why Jeff Schoettmer led the team in tackles last year.

First you may have noticed #10 in or around every single one of those running plays, often coming back into a play that may have passed him. This shows great instincts and it is a sign that he can sniff out fakes. Great middle linebackers do this, and though it doesn’t always show up in the stats, it is a great help to any defense.

Second, ECU’s game plan was clearly to have a man block Schoettmer on every play. Why? Because they knew if they didn’t he was going to get to the RB. It is a sign of respect and shows that he is a player to keep an eye on.

Being a leader on and off the field

If the QB is the heart and soul of the offense, the middle linebacker is the heart and soul of the defense. And nobody puts more heart and soul into what they do that Jeff Schoettmer. He is constantly taking responsibility for things, like tackling. ESPN just recently named him the most important player on the team.

But he also supports the coaching staff. Look at the video below as he talks about the new coaching staff:

Now I don’t know Jeff personally, but it is clear he is the kind of leader I would want on my defense. He is clearly buying in to what they are trying to do. If I have learned anything in my years of leadership, it is that unless your people buy in, you will never be successful. Yeah change can be good, but without the support of your leaders, change will never happen.

Doing the Little things

This is probably the thing that makes Jeff Schoettmer such a likable player. KIH has already covered his star talent as a coverage linebacker, but he is so much more than that. He makes tackles in the backfield. He covers up mistakes for others. He recovers fumbles. He sheds his blockers. He gets to the football no matter what.

More from North Carolina Tar Heels

Go back up to that video of the ECU game. At about the 2:05 mark, ECU has a run that, in my mind, exemplifies the 2014 UNC defense because of all the missed tackles. On 3rd and 28, ECU hands off the ball and the RB runs pretty much untouched 44 yards for a TD. At that point UNC was only down 1 and a stop there may have changed the game.

But look at that play again. You’ll see that if not for an unintentional block (the player was blocking somebody else and accidentally undercut Schoettmer), Jeff would’ve made the tackle and forced a Pirates punt. This is what makes him such a special player and what should give Carolina fans hope that maybe the defense can improve under Chizik.

So what should Carolina fans expect out of Jeff Schoettmer this season? With some better protection against the run and a defense designed to highlight the middle linebacker, Jeff should be in for a big season.

I think something like a 90 ish tackle, 10 TFL, 4 int, and fumble recovery type of season sounds about right and would be a great step in not only helping UNC win some more games but in Jeff Schoettmer playing on Sundays next season as well.