Versatility is an attribute every coach covets, but few of them utilize it as effectively as Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown. Players he has identified for VIPER position have come to symbolize that ability. From Obi Melinfonwu at Connecticut, to Jabrill Peppers and now Khaleke Hudson at Michigan, Brown has shown a keen eye for athletes that can play in coverage, but are also fierce enough to play in the box. That’s what he believes he has identified in Jensen Beach (Fla.) safety/athlete Jamien Sherwood.
"Coach Don (brown) came to my school one day (in the spring) and it jumped from there,” Sherwood recalled. “I never had any contact with anyone from Michigan until after that day. One day he came in and I just happened to be passing by my coach’s class and walked in and he was in there. I said hello and that was about it. A few days later they told my coach they'd like to offer me."
"(Michigan sees Sherwood) moving around, kind of like Jabrill Peppers but not so much on the offensive side of the ball. But my position could be rushing off the edge, in between gaps, out in coverage on the slot or tight ends, or over the top deep.”
At just over 6-2, 200 pounds, and a forty time in the 4.5s, Sherwood seems tailor made for that hybrid role. Based on the big play ability he has displayed as a punt returner and receiver in high school, he could also wind up playing some offense in college. For now, though, it’s all about defense. That was certainly the message delivered by Brown when the Maize & Blue hosted Sherwood and good friend David Reese on a joint visit last week.
"He's a very outgoing person… very exciting,” Sherwood said of Brown. “When he speaks he speaks with expression and emphasis. He gets his message across to you and he doesn't have to say much, but you know what he's trying to get at. By him telling me how he would like for me to play for them and what he would like for me to do for them means a lot. It helps me a lot with recruiting too because I don't want to go to a school not knowing what they want or what they want from me. But him showing me how they could use me, how I would be played, how they would put me in the best position for myself helps a lot."
Connecting with the coaches on a personal level also helps. Sherwood did just that with several staff members, including Jim Harbaugh.
"A great man,” said Sherwood of Michigan’s headman. “Exciting too. Me and him got to play a game of chess. Sitting in his office talking I was staring at the chess board and we just started playing each other. He got lucky. (Laughter). He really did get lucky. I looked down at one piece that I shouldn't move (and moved it anyway). It was a close one, but he won."
While that and other interactions were the highlights of the visit, Sherwood also came away impressed with the vibe in Ann Arbor.
"It's very different from South Florida,” he said. “It’s summertime, so there wasn't a lot of people on campus but you can tell even when school isn't in session or on game day, it gets crowded, its meant to be crowded there. It was a cool breeze, cool weather. It was just different from Florida, I don't really know how to explain it. It was a good different. I could see myself playing there."
Another factor helping the Wolverines’ cause is the number of Florida players on the roster. The Sunshine State star doesn’t know any of them, but knowing that the hail from the same area is comforting.
“Going out to where you can't connect with anybody does play a role because you don't know how to be yourself so for them being from the same area that I'm from helps a lot."
The question now is, how much does it help Michigan?
"I guess you could say one of the schools at the top,” Sherwood replied. “I could just see myself being there (and) being around the people (and) around the coaches. They’re one of the top (schools)."
"I've never really narrowed (the list) down or anything, but schools that recruit me hard I guess are Miami, Florida, Indiana, Auburn, Ole Miss, Oregon, Michigan now, and that's really it."
With interest in him rising, Sherwood is leaving the door open for other offers. He has also begun leaning toward pushing back his decision timeline.
"I'm graduating early so I'll definitely have to have a decision made by December, but I did plan to have it in August,” he said. “Now I think I might just wait until the end of the season and go from there."
That’s plenty time to determine which of his suitors checks all his recruiting boxes.
"Just like everyone, playing time is a big factor but wherever you go you always have the opportunity to play but depth chart size, I don't want to go somewhere where there's 30 DB's waiting just to get a chance. So depth chart, environment, defensive scheme, and just how the team bonds and stuff."