Now that a 2020 season is back in play, we continue our “Race to MAHturity” series, highlighting Gopher football players who are expected to step up and take on a bigger role for Minnesota.
I can’t say expectations were high for Sam Renner ahead of the 2019 season, but by mid October, the Star Tribune was referring to the former walk-on defensive tackle as the “unsung hero of the defense.” He finished the season with a team-leading five sacks, in addition to 43 tackles and 8.5 tackles for loss, and was named All-Big Ten Honorable Mention.
So you could say expectations will be high for Keonte Schad, the defensive tackle who is the favorite to step into Renner’s starting spot for the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
Schad was a coveted JUCO recruit with scholarship offers from Georgia, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Virginia Tech, and West Virginia. But he committed to P.J. Fleck and co. at Minnesota, where he was a key part of the rotation at defensive tackle last season. Schad finished the season with 21 tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss after playing in all 13 games.
The three-technique defensive tackle position in defensive coordinator Joe Rossi’s base 4-2-5 scheme requires a different skillset than the nose tackle. The nose tackle is expected to clog up the interior of the offensive line and absorb as many blockers as they can, opening up holes for the linebackers. The three-technique defensive tackle needs to be more disruptive, creating pressure by attacking the gaps on their side of the center.
Fortunately, Schad has proven he can be very disruptive.
The 6’3”, 295-lb. defensive tackle had a big game against Georgia Southern, recording a season-high six tackles and one tackle for loss. On this particular play, I don’t know that anyone on the Eagles’ offensive line was on the same page. The right guard certainly looks lost and Schad brushes right past him to maul the running back for a loss.
Against Maryland later in the year, Schad draws a double team from the left tackle and the left guard and nearly gets driven out of the play. Yet somehow he manages to escape by slipping between them and drops the ball carrier for a minimal gain.
But his most impressive show of force (and quickness) may have been against Northwestern. Here, Schad doesn’t even give his blocker a change to engage, squeezing past the center and the left guard to wrap up the running back in the backfield for a loss of two yards.
With Micah Dew-Treadway back as the starting nose tackle, the stage is set for Schad to make his presence known in the backfields of opposing offenses.