Southern Miss

Southern Miss' Schuffert always hits the mark at long snapper

 USM long snapper Lance Schuffert stands with Gov. Phil Bryant for the coin toss before their game against Mississippi State on Saturday, Sept. 5, 2015.
TIM ISBELL/SUN HERALD USM long snapper Lance Schuffert stands with Gov. Phil Bryant for the coin toss before their game against Mississippi State on Saturday, Sept. 5, 2015. SUN HERALD

HATTIESBURG -- Take away the video of Southern Miss long snapper Lance Schuffert snapping a football from the upper deck at M.M. Roberts Stadium into a garbage can on the field.

Take away his snap from the free throw line at Reed Green Coliseum into the goal at the other end of the court.

And you can take away Schuffert's favorite, when he snapped three footballs, one immediately after another, and the snaps knocked milk jugs out of both of Casey Martin's hands and a sports drink bottle off the receiver's head.

"Casey doesn't flinch one time," Schuffert said with admiration.

Take away all that and what do you get?

"(Schuffert) is as good a snapper as I've ever been around," USM coach Todd Monken said.

"He hasn't (told me that)," said Schuffert, a 6-foot, 231-pound redshirt senior from Prattville, Ala.

"Coach Monken's been around a lot of good football teams. He's been in the NFL with a lot of good snappers so that's nice to hear, but at the end of the day, I have a job and I'm here to do that job. But to hear that from coach Monken is nice. He has a lot of confidence in me and I'm glad that he does."

Monken is not the only person who praises Schuffert.

"He is probably one of the better long snappers in the country but you never hear about him," Golden Eagle place-kicker Stephen Brauchle said. "The snap is going to be there 100 percent of the time and that's very reassuring to know that it's always going to be there."

A regular center on his Pratville, Ala., High School team, Schuffert was a back-up long-snapper in high school until his senior year. That's when he drew the attention of former USM coach Larry Fedora and his staff.

"When I realized I wasn't big enough to play college offensive line, I started pursuing the route of a long snapper," said Schuffert, whose brother Austin is a freshman offensive lineman at Army.

"Coach Fedora and his staff offered me a grayshirt here out of high school. I signed in February but I was going to come in the following January. I was going to hang out at home, take some hours on-line. Then they called me about two weeks before camp started in 2011 and said that the backup snapper quit and they had a scholarship so come on. So I went from sitting on the couch to being brought in two weeks before camp for a championship run, so that was kind of interesting."

Schuffert redshirted that season, the last time Southern Miss won a Conference USA title. But he earned a spot as the first-string long snapper the next year and has been snapping ever since, even though there have been no championship runs until this season.

"My first couple of years of snapping (at USM) I think we had more punts than anybody in the country, or close to it," Schuffert said. "So I definitely got a lot of practice at it, that's for sure."

Southern Miss has not led the nation in number of punts in any of Schuffert's years, but he has snapped a lot for punts -- 64 times in 2012, 76 in 2013, 67 in 2014 and so far, 35 this year. That's a total of 242 long snaps.

Throw in 79 more long snaps on field goal attempts in his career, and 133 on extra-point kicks, and Schuffert is among the team leaders in amount of plays he's been on the field the past four seasons.

"You don't even think about a bad snap or him covering," Monken said. "He's been a tremendous leader for us. I can't say enough about how far he's come."

Schuffert, and the rest of the Golden Eagles, have come far enough to have a Conference USA West Division showdown at 11 a.m. Saturday at Louisiana Tech.

Both teams are 8-3 overall and 6-1 in Conference USA. The winner advances to the Dec. 5 C-USA championship game.

"Everybody in the locker room knows what's at stake," Schuffert said. "When the schedule came out, we were all sitting around and said, 'Hey, if we do what we're supposed to do and they do what they're supposed to do, it's going to come down to this.' So while we haven't been looking ahead all season, we have been looking to this opportunity because we knew what it was going to mean if we handled business like we have.

"Winning this one would mean a lot to me because I didn't play for the first one. I was the backup. I got to travel and be a part of it but my cleats never got on the field. While I was a part of it, this one would obviously mean the most to me."

Don't expect to see any trick shots out of Schuffert this week, though. And Monken doesn't care if he ever sees them.

"If you want to spend all day trying to snap one into a bucket, or hit an apple off the head, I don't know," Monken said. "I'm happy he likes to do that. Everybody likes to do stuff in their free time, he just happens to like trick shots. Specialists like to do that stuff. They get bored and have to find things to do."

Maybe so, but Schuffert claims this Thanksgiving week will be all business.

"Nick (Mullens) is great at throwing passes, I better be perfect at (snapping) 14-yard passes (to the punter) if that's all I have to do all day every day," he said. "It's just a thing I call perfecting my craft. You go out there and work on what you're supposed to do every day and everything else will take care of itself, hopefully."