Koenning’s inclination proved correct as Schoettmer started 11 games at middle linebacker, totaling 85 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss and six quarterback hurries. Offseason shoulder surgery sidelined Schoettmer during the winter and spring months, which served as a frustrating detour for his career’s upward trajectory.
“Once everyone hits the field, it’s tough seeing the guys you work so hard with compete every day for positions and I just have to watch from the sideline,” Schoettmer said, referencing spring practice. “It’s tough, but I just had to be mature about it and think about the best I could make out of it, which was rehabbing my shoulder, getting my legs stronger, getting the right side of my body stronger, getting faster [and] learning the defense better.”
Schoettmer weighed roughly 210 pounds 18 months ago. He played at 225 last season and recently weighed in at 233. The coaching staff wants him at 235 pounds by the season opener.
“I’m stronger than I was last year, faster than I was last year; I feel real good,” Schoettmer said. “It was tough sitting out, but I think it got some young guys reps in the spring that really helped them. Part of me sitting out was that I really got to focus on the whole defense. I got to help the young guys in practice and teach them what to do while I was working on my shoulder and getting my physical condition back up.”
With Schoettmer sidelined this spring, former bandit Darius Lipford moved back to middle linebacker and thrived alongside weakside linebacker Travis Hughes. Lipford was penciled with the first team following spring ball, but academics forced the senior to enter his name into the NFL Supplemental Draft earlier this month.
Without Lipford’s leadership in the middle, Schoettmer is looking to establish himself in a similar manner.
“One of my strengths this summer that I’ve been working on is trying to be the vocal leader of the defense,” Schoettmer said. “It’s more of my job since Darius is gone and they’ve kind of put me at the head of the Mike. I’ve got to run the defense now, so I think I’ve done a good job of that and my teammates will attest to that.”
In Koenning’s complex 4-2-5 scheme, blitzes and shifts can occur all over the field, thereby placing an incredible emphasis on communication not only within position groups but across all three lines of defense.
“I’m in the middle, so I’m making calls to the D-line and the secondary,” Schoettmer said. “I want to know exactly what every person does on each play. I don’t have to think about it as the play is going on, but if a free safety wants to be able to talk to me about making a call between the tight end and the running back, we’ve got to be able to communicate that.”
The loss of Lipford hurts the depth of a unit that had to rely on Tre Boston to move from free safety to man a linebacker spot in the Belk Bowl. According to Schoettmer, however, a pair of freshmen linebackers – Ty Tomlin and Cayson Collins - appear set to alleviate the concerns.
“They’ve already shown good things in 7-on-7 and position drills,” Schoettmer said. “The big thing they’ve got to do is learn the defense. Our defense is pretty complicated, so we’ve been trying to get extra film sessions in with them to learn the defense better so they can really help us.”
Schoettmer, who has developed a reputation as laid back and a good quote with the media, has added a noticeable confidence this offseason. It’s a vibe that’s shared by many of his teammates.
“This will be my fourth year here and I’ve never felt this camaraderie amongst the guys,” Schoettmer said. “Just the fact that we know we can win the Coastal, you know? It’s ours for the taking, to be honest… We’re hungry for that. We can feel it more than any year in the past, I think.”