College football: Gophers’ LB coach Sherels living the dream
By Marcus R. Fuller
St. Paul Pioneer Press
After the former Gophers captain and linebacker finished his playing career in 2007, he never knew how quickly his dream would become a reality.
Sherels was promoted from defensive graduate assistant to linebackers coach in the spring to replace veteran Billy Miller, who left for Florida State. And the transition has been as smooth as he could have hoped.
“I’m living my dream every single day,” Sherels said Friday. “I feel like I’m still a young player out there. I’m having fun with the guys. It’s a good balance. I’m grateful enough to learn from (Miller) as a graduate assistant and volunteer assistant. I’m very thankful for that, but I certainly have my own style.”
Redshirt sophomore linebacker Jack Lynn described Sherels as “young and vibrant.”
“He just loves to be out there,” Lynn said. “He just loves coaching football. You can tell by the way he talks and the way he acts — how he approaches the game and attacks the film.”
But Sherels doesn’t just have his players watch game video during position meetings. He gives them a sharpie and tells them to write different schemes on the board and how the offense might counteract.
“He’s all about picking our minds a little bit,” Lynn said with a smile.
At 6 feet, 240 pounds, Sherels wasn’t the most athletic linebacker, but he studied the game religiously and got the most out of his ability.
He and his younger brother, Marcus, started their careers off as walk-ons with the Gophers out of Rochester John Marshall High School. But the Sherels brothers eventually earned scholarships and continued to achieve their goals beyond college.
Marcus is in his fourth season as a cornerback and punt returner with the Minnesota Vikings.
Mike Sherels remembers when he started off coaching at the high school level for three years.
It wasn’t until Jerry Kill met him at a Gophers basketball game that Sherels was hired by his alma mater as a special assistant to the head coach in 2011. He then quickly moved up to assistant recruiting coordinator in 2012 and defensive graduate assistant last year.
Now he takes over a linebackers group that is heavy on talent and inexperience.
There are two returning starters in senior Damien Wilson and junior De’Vondre Campbell.
Both have All-Big Ten potential but are only in their second year at Minnesota.
Lynn and Campbell are expected to be the starting outside linebackers, with Wilson at middle linebacker.
“I don’t know that there’s a better-looking starting three in the Big Ten,” Sherels said. “Jack is really smart and levelheaded one. De’Vondre is a little bit quiet. Damien is kind of fiery. They really balance each other out, and they really communicate well with one another.”
Lynn took over as the likely starter when junior college transfer Cody Poock suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament during spring practice.
Replacing Poock was the first test for Sherels as linebackers coach.
The 6-2, 235-pound sophomore has been doing no-contact drills in fall camp, but it’s uncertain whether Poock can recover fast enough to play this year.
“When he’s 100 percent ready to come back and contribute, we’ll put him back on the field,” Sherels said. “Whether that’s this year in the Big Ten, whether that’s preseason or whether that’s next year after a redshirt year. To try to rush him back early would be a little bit selfish on our part.”
Losing one of his top players before the season isn’t the biggest challenge Sherels has faced since he’s been coaching at the U.
Two years ago, his daughter, Valerie, was born five weeks premature in Houston on the same day the Gophers lost to Texas Tech in the Meineke Car Care Bowl.
The Gophers returned to Houston last year and lost to Syracuse in the Texas Bowl.
“Houston and myself have a strange relationship,” Sherels joked. “Houston gave me a daughter but two losses in bowl games.”
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