By JOHN BASSETTI
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN -- Due to the Mahoning Valley Thunder's limited access to the Chevrolet Centre for practices, Mike Schneider wasn't throwing the football any appreciable distance -- something to which he's accustomed.
Facilities with limited ceiling space didn't give a quarterback the necessary space for long passes.
That's why an outdoor practice at YSU's Stambaugh Stadium last week was a welcomed opportunity.
"It was pretty cold out there, but I got to throw some deep balls," the former Sharon High, Duke and YSU player said in preparation for the arenafootball2 team's inaugural season.
Quickness over strength
Once indoors, however, long passes on a 50-yard long field may not be common, but they do happen and could result in a blink-of-the-eye TD.
"It's not about how strong your arm is like the outdoor game," said Schneider, the backup to veteran Glen Gauntt. "It's very quick passing. You don't need much zip on the ball. It's mostly about touch and throwing over linebackers and over the middle."
Schneider, who graduated from Duke last summer, then used his fifth year of eligibility to play one season for the Penguins, said Gauntt's help has been immeasurable.
"He's helped me learn the game. I'm doing pretty well and coach [Mike Hold] likes where I'm at now."
Schneider is anxious to be part of a game in which high scoring is the norm.
"I'm looking forward to being part of an offense that scores lots of points."
Not much down time
The challenge of trying to adapt to the new animal fits perfectly into Schneider's plans.
"It's a great-timing situation now," the Sharon High graduate said. "I can't ask for anything more, whether it's CFL or Arena."
He was referring to the short window between the conclusion of his college career and pro opportunities.
"There wasn't much of a lull," said Schneider, who was with YSU when the Penguins lost to Appalachian State in the I-AA semifinals in December.
His objective was to stay in shape in anticipation of a possible shot at the CFL or NFL.
"Three months ago, I didn't know about af2. I was sticking around to work out and train to see what may happen with any league. "I felt like I could still play at the next level, so I started sending out tapes to every league there is and went to a few workouts."
He said he heard about the AFL, but not af2.
Eventually, Schneider's name found its way into af2 circles via a friend.
"I got a call from Coach Hold and discussed it with him a couple months ago."
Adapting to indoor game
Schneider signed in February. He attended an NFL pro day at Stambaugh Stadium last week, but, if nothing happens with the NFL or CFL, he figured it was best to learn the indoor game now instead of waiting a year.
"This is a good chance to learn and continue to play football," the 23-year-old said. "I think I want to play in the AFL after this."
Schneider feels he's adapting to the indoor game.
"There's a lot more to the game that people think," he said of the various defensive coverages to learn. It's a quick game, so you have to process it a lot faster. Seeing coverages over and over will help. Instead of waiting for a five-step drop, I may have to get off a pass in two steps or one."
Schneider said he knows his place behind Gauntt.
"I knew I wasn't going to be the starting quarterback. I didn't understand that at first. He's a veteran and I'm going to learn a lot from him. I'm not saying I'm not going to work my butt off. For one, I've got to make quicker reads."
Schneider won't have a parttime job until after the first game. "That's when we pretty much get settled in with jobs and work," he said.
He plans to move into an apartment with a teammate to build more chemistry.
Mobility will come in handy
Schneider expects indoor playcalling to be at least a 90-10 mix of pass and rush percentages.
"Maybe even 95 pass/5 run," he added.
Although he's a drop-back type, the 6-2 Schneider said he's got mobility.
"Arena doesn't ask you to be a speed demon because there's not enough room, but a quarterback can still break the pocket and run around making plays. It's more about dropping back and looking downfield and how quick the release is rather than how strong the arm is."
While the Chevy Centre playing suface is not field turf, it's pretty soft and gives a little.
"It'll still hurt to get scraped on, so you have to wear long sleeves and high socks to prevent getting brush burns," Mike said. "It's like YSU's old turf, but a little softer."
Mike's father coached 32 years in high school, including 29 as offensive line coach at Sharon. Mike's brother has been offensive coordinator for eight.