Duke's Schneider prepped for increased role

Aug. 28, 2014 @ 10:18 AM

Braxton Deaver’s knee injury is causing Erich Schneider’s role to increase for Duke’s football team.

Unlike 2012, everything points toward Schneider being far better prepared to capitalize this time around.

Two years ago, Schneider played in 13 games as a true freshman, seeing game action for 227 snaps. He caught one pass for 13 and it came in a forgettable 50-13 loss at Stanford

Having now fully transitioned from wide receiver to tight end following a redshirt season in 2013, Schneider finds himself part of Duke’s game plan as the Blue Devils prepare to open their season against Elon on Saturday night (6 p.m., ESPN3.com).

With Deaver lost for the season to a torn ACL, David Reeves moves into the starting lineup at tight end. Schneider is No. 2 on the depth chart behind Reeves after preseason camp.

“I think Erich Schneider can have an impact on the game,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. “He is really a good football player and a different person.”

Deaver caught 46 passes for 600 yards last season, with both totals being second on the Blue Devils behind wide receiver Jamison Crowder. While that takes away a popular target from quarterback Anthony Boone, the 6-7, 240-pound Schneider is certainly someone who’ll be noticed on the field.

“Right now, I feel very comfortable saying that DJ Reeves and Erich Schneider, together with their skills, can equal a Braxton Deaver,” Boone said. “They are definitely going to give us a chance to be effective in our conference.”

Deaver also missed the 2012 season with multiple injuries, including a broken kneecap and a torn ACL. Reeves started that season while Schneider was forced into action, albeit at wide receiver, rather than taking

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that season as a redshirt to build up strength.

Instead, he was redshirted last season and he is now 20-25 pounds heavier than he was when he was last on the field in games in 2012. His body shape, along with experience playing on special teams, has him better prepared for the physical demands of playing tight end.

“I never played tight end while I was in high school,” said Schneider, from Jacksonville, Florida’s Episcopal High School. “It took me a while to get used to it. But a lot of it has been gaining weight and getting bigger. A lot of it has been about getting my pads on and hitting people. It’s all about learning my repetition. I’m ready to take on anybody. I can definitely hit better than I was my freshman year.”

This summer, another Deaver absence benefitted Schneider and figures to pay off for Duke this season. Due to a disciplinary issue, Deaver didn’t work with the players when they held self-run practice sessions. That meant Reeves and Schneider got those repetitions.

“I got a lot of experience with DJ and I splitting reps all summer,” Schneider said. “I didn’t have a lot of experience last year. I spilt my time with the receivers and tight ends (in practice). So this summer has given me a lot of experience. That’s the best way to learn, being on the field going against the defense.”

Schneider said Deaver will continue to play a role in helping the tight ends this season, even if it is from the sideline. He called Deaver his “big brother.”

“I try to mimic what Deaver does out there,” Schneider said. “We both have quickness for our size. We’ve got great hands. We’re just looking for those mismatches out there with safeties and those linebacker. Ready to make some plays.”