When the idea of Cole Schneider shifting from the offensive line to the defensive line was floated, the 6-foot-4, 295-pound Riverdale senior, whose recruiting stock skyrocketed over the last year as an offensive guard, never considered how it would affect the rest of his recruitment.
With a plethora of Division I offers in hand, Schneider is working toward more tenders from Power 5 schools. The way he sees it, what better way to showcase his freakish athletic abilities that compliment his power and strength on the offensive line than to make plays on defense and spend some time as a lead blocker and ball carrier at H-back this coming season?
“I’ve always wanted to play defensive line,” said Schneider, who made the News-Press’ Big 15 for the second straight year, checking in at No. 13 among Southwest Florida’s top recruits. “On the offensive line no one really sees you. I like hitting the quarterback and the ballcarrier. It’s a lot of fun.”
It’s not where he’s made his name, though.
In a year’s time, he’s moved from a little-known recruit with a ton of potential, as evidenced by an early offer from Florida Atlantic, to a hot commodity among those schools who’ve seen film of the agile guard with 4.8 40-yard dash.
Combine that with a 500-pound squat, a 365-pound bench press as well as a knack for down blocks and a will to play to the whistle, and the offers started rolling in. His list of 12 offers include Marshall, Central Florida, South Florida, UMass and Minnesota.
Riverdale coach Tom Roszell, who will start his second stint with the Raiders this fall, compared him to another great he coached at Lehigh, Mario Henderson. After playing just one season, Henderson started his freshman season at Florida State and went on to play five years in the NFL.
There’s one catch.
“At this point in time, Cole’s ahead of where Mario was,” Roszell said. “Cole may not have his size, but he’s more athletic.”
Following a season where he helped Riverdale rush for close to 150 yards per game, Schneider, the 2015 Class 2A 285-pound state wrestling champion and a fourth-place finisher last season, looked forward to creating some more eye-catching highlight reels full of pancake and downfield blocks.
Turning around the Raiders program, which is coming off a 3-7 season, was more important. And he understands he is needed most clogging up the middle at defensive tackle.
The tempo is a lot faster on the defensive side of the ball. He’ll need to improve his reads and get used to not huddling after every play as he did on offense.
“It’s a lot of film, and you have to have great vision,” Schneider said. “I’m not used to having that kind of vision. You have to follow the guard when he pulls and read the down blocks scheme.”
Although college coaches project him to play on the offensive line at the next level, Schneider would be thrilled if he earned a few offers to play on the defensive line. Perhaps he could even set himself apart from the rest of the Class of 2017 with his ability to make plays with the ball in his hands.
Roszell plans to give opponents a healthy dose of Schneider at H-back and tight end.
“It gives us some options with him,” Roszell said. “With his speed, you want to put him in space.”
Schneider’s leadership qualities fall into the category of intangibles that can’t be taught.
When coach Damon Jones left Riverdale for St. John Neumann in the spring and Roszell, also the athletic director, took over, the senior was among the first to embrace the change. He understood if he bought into Roszell and the rest of the coaching staff everyone else would follow.
For that, Roszell is grateful.
“(Former Michigan State basketball coach) Jud Heathcote always said Magic Johnson was not only his best player, but his hardest worker,” Roszell said. “Cole’s our hardest worker in the weight room and on the field. That’s what college coaches are looking for.”
The Big 15
The News-Press is counting down the top football recruits in Southwest Florida every Tuesday and Friday until the start of the high school football season. The Big 15 features players going into their junior and senior years from Lee and Collier counties, with respect paid to those with hard scholarship offers and those without who possess great potential.
The Next 15
28. Finley Felix, Riverdale: A 6-foot-4, 303-pound powerful offensive tackle who has shown flashes of greatness and could be a Division I signee with a strong senior campaign.