Q&A: Kevin Sherrer on J.J. Green and leaving sweet home Alabama

New Georgia assistant coach Kevin Sherrer puts the SAM linebackers through the paces in a recent football practice this spring. (UGA photo by John Kelley)

New Georgia assistant coach Kevin Sherrer puts the SAM linebackers through the paces in a recent football practice this spring. (UGA photo by John Kelley)

ATHENS – Kevin Sherrer is an Alabama man through and through. He was born in Oneonta, Ala., starred as a tight end at Cleveland (Ala.) High, played that position at the University of Alabama (1993-95) and was a grad assistant for the Crimson Tide. Since then he coached at two Alabama high schools, then was the director of player development at Bama before serving last year as the defensive coordinator at South Alabama.

So while he’s moved a bunch the last 18 years, he hasn’t ventured across the state line very much until now. Sherrer came east to join his old Alabama teammate Jeremy Pruitt on the Bulldogs’ defensive coaching staff. Sherrer is coaching the “SAM,” or strongside outside linebacker, and the “Star,” or nickelback, at Georgia. He’s been in Athens since late January.

Sherrer gave The AJC a few minutes of his time this week to catch up on his transition to UGA and the guys he has playing for him. …

Q: You and your wife Carrie have twin boys, Kaleb and Kyle, who are 13 and play a lot of sports. Have you been able to get them over here yet?

A: “Actually my family is still in Spanish Fort, Ala. They’re going to finish the school year out there. They’ll get over here sometime this summer. So I’m not settled just yet. Kind of here and there and in between.”

Q: I guess that’s the tough part of coaching, all the moving and being away from your family.

A: “Yeah, I’m staying in a condo right now. They come over and visit when they can, but they have sports and things in their lives they have to do. From that aspect of being a coach, it’s tough, because I’ve had to move the last two years and this time of year I don’t get to see them a lot. They have a lot going on themselves.”

Q: I guess having old friends like Pruitt and Will Friend on the staff helps with the transition.

A: “Yeah, and I knew Mike Bobo from acquaintances. That helps a lot when you know guys and they kind of help you find your way around and learn the ropes. We spend a lot of time together. In amount of hours, we spend way more time together than we do with our own families. So you want to get along with the people you coach with. You need to be able to enjoy spending time with them away from the office, and I definitely have since I’ve been here. You want to enjoy what you do when you put that much time into it.

Q: Tell me about the Star position you’re coaching. It seems like J.J. Green has been one of major standouts this spring.

A: “He’s a really good competitor. He shows up every day to work. He’s a good athlete. It’s important to him. He goes out there and he studies every day. When we’re in the meeting room, he always has a note pad with him. We’re going through coverages and Coach Pruitt is presenting to the defense and he’s always sitting there writing notes down. So you can tell it’s important to him. And, again, he’s a football player. He’s played in some big games here on offense and that means something. He’s just a guy who shows up every day with a smile on his face and ready to go to work. That’s given him a chance and jump in on the new defense and start over.”

Q: Last year the Star position was played primarily by Josh Harvey-Clemons, who was 6-foot-5, 215 pounds. How has a 5-9, 183-pound guy like Green been able to fill the role so well?

A: “It was a little bit of a different philosophy. Our Star is a little bit more of DB than linebacker. A third corner is what he is. Last year, it was a little bit different of a philosophy as far as coverages. The things we ask that guy to do, he’s got to do a lot of the inside receiver coverage by himself and that’s a challenge. That guy has got to be versatile because he’s got to be able to blitz and he’s got to be able fit the box against the runs and he’s also got to be able to run and play coverages and everything has to be tied in with everybody else we have on the field as well. So it’s a little different in Coach Pruitt’s system than what they did at least last year.

Q: Who else do you have playing there?

A: “Sheldon Dawson, and we roll a lot of guys to multiple positions. So every corner has to know how to play (the Star) because we have to create some depth. But Sheldon and J.J. are the two guys who have been getting the bulk of the reps with the ones and twos.”

Q: How often would you say you’re actually in base?

A: “Sixteen to 18 percent of the time we’re in our base defense that puts a SAM on the field. Our nickel package has a star and our dime package has a “Money” that puts six defensive backs on the field.”

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