"He was an average lineman last year, but this year he blew people away," said Bobcats coach Rick Swain, who once attended basketball camp at UNC. "He's not even close to reaching his full potential."
It was actually second-year UNC administrative assistant Nick Schiralli that discovered Schmidt. Schiralli was an assistant to Swain at Gainesville (Fla.) High School in 2001.
Florida, Tennessee and Georgia Tech quickly came along to pursue Schmidt a little later, but now he said he just gets calls from UNC and Kansas State.
Schmidt was not the player last year that he developed into this past season. Since his junior season, he grew three inches and put on 75 pounds. The Tar Heels expect him to be even bigger when he enrolls at UNC next fall.
The 17-year-old lefty has quick hands and feet and a powerful body with room to grow. His time in the 40-yard dash has been reported at 4.8 seconds and he benches/squats 305/375 pounds.
"We've considered playing him at tight end," Swain said. "If we had a decent tackle we could play there in his place we would have. He's going to beg the Carolina coaches to let him play tight end."
Schmidt was second team All-Broward County in 2003 and attended camp at the University of Florida during the summer. Schmidt said he would like to earn a degree in Landscape Architecture. He currently maintains a 3.5 GPA and has already qualified academically to Carolina by scoring 1030 on the SAT.
Schmidt's addition is one step in filling one of Carolina's most pressing needs from a position standpoint.
"I like the coaches so far, but I'm really anxious to make my visit and meet all the players," said Schmidt, who actually won't make his official visit to Carolina until mid-January.
The Tar Heels' 2-10 campaign was a bit of a bummer to Schmidt, as it probably was to most of UNC prospects and commitments.
"It was a little bit, but I understand that they're bringing in some really good recruits," Schmidt said. "I understand that they have a plan for the next few years."
Schmidt also plays basketball. It was his annual visits to the Carolina Basketball Camp when he was younger that got him interested in the Tar Heels at an early age. His family of five has also enjoyed many visits to Chapel Hill over the years.
"We would go up there for a week or so and my wife and I would hang out in Chapel Hill while our kids were there," Ryan's father Steve said. "We used to think, ‘Wow, what a great place to go to school.' But we also knew it was a hard school to get into.
"I just think it's a very prestigious university to attend academically," Ryan's mother Tammy added. "No one from Ryan's high school had ever gone to UNC."