Benefit of new LB coach Kevin Sherrer ‘hard to measure’

Kevin Sherrer, the Yellow Jackets new linebackers coach, brings a résumé that catches notice. (Danny Karnik/Georgia Tech Athletics)

Credit: Danny Karnik

Credit: Danny Karnik

Kevin Sherrer, the Yellow Jackets new linebackers coach, brings a résumé that catches notice. (Danny Karnik/Georgia Tech Athletics)

Brent Key hired a linebackers coach. Georgia Tech defensive coordinator Andrew Thacker took receipt of an invaluable resource.

Kevin Sherrer, the Yellow Jackets new linebackers coach, brings a résumé that catches notice. Sherrer started at the high school level in Alabama in 1996 and worked his way up to coaching outside linebackers at Georgia (2014-17, spanning the Mark Richt and Kirby Smart tenures), then inside linebackers and special teams at Tennessee (2018-19) and then linebackers with the New York Giants in the NFL (2020-21).

Hired in January, Sherrer holds the official title of linebackers coach and co-defensive coordinator.

Aside from Smart, Sherrer was on the staff of Nick Saban at Alabama (as director of player development 2010-12) and former Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt. Beyond a coach who will tutor Tech’s linebackers, Thacker has an aide who can be a counsel with years of experience behind him.

As Key leads Tech in his first year as full-time head coach and has entrusted the defense to Thacker, he has given him ample help.

“What I am able to gain from him and the value that he brings to me and bring to the defense is hard to measure right now,” Thacker said Monday after the team’s fourth practice of the spring.

Thacker said Sherrer has offered his knowledge on details as nuanced as the path that linebackers take to get to the quarterback on a blitz “and bringing his own vision of what that looks like, being able to articulate it to the guys to make us better.”

His bank of knowledge has served the staff as coaches have put together the scheme and playbook, helping figure out what worked and didn’t work with Tech’s defense last year, how it was exposed and what solutions might be available to address it.

Sherrer has “just brought tremendous value in nuancing the defense in those ways,” Thacker said.

Sherrer was available after not coaching in the 2022 season. He was swept out in the Giants coaching transition, spending the year back home in Alabama, visiting coaching colleagues in college and the NFL and catching up on lost time with his family (he is married with two sons in college).

In this hiring cycle, he connected with Tech quarterbacks coach Chris Weinke, who had worked with Sherrer at Tennessee. While he had never worked on a staff with Key, they had a number of coaches that both had worked with at separate times, including Saban and Pruitt. Key shifted linebackers coach and special teams coordinator Jason Semore to special teams coordinator with duties coaching the nickel backs and safeties before Semore took a job as defensive coordinator at Marshall.

Sherrer has stepped into his role as a help to Thacker.

“There are some things that have gone on in this defensive system here at Tech that are new to me,” Sherrer said. “So it’s constant learning. As a coach, you’re constantly trying to gain knowledge. So I’m trying to gain knowledge from him and his understanding and his approach, coach Key’s approach to the overall program and help just give my opinion of that now. And then, obviously, once we get into the season, there’ll be things that he and I may sometimes discuss, talk about, what we feel like the best thing to do is. Yeah, it’s important to have a good relationship, and so far it’s been great.”

It’s been a change. He described coaching in the NFL as a dream job. He likened it to coaching coaches, because players at that level know the scheme well enough that they can figure out what the offense is trying to do.

“Your job as a coach is just to give them a few little nuggets here and there to help improve or give them some longevity into their career,” he said.

He spoke of how surreal it was, in his first game with the Giants, to look across and see Steelers legend Ben Roethlisberger on the other sideline. When he last coached in college, in 2019, the transfer portal was a year old. The NCAA had yet to grant all football players one transfer with immediate eligibility. Athletes didn’t yet have the NCAA’s approval to be paid for their name, image and likeness. Recruiting, in short, has changed “a lot,” Sherrer said.

Sherrer isn’t the only new experienced resource for Thacker. Key also hired Brian Baker, who coached linebackers at Tech 1987-94 and was defensive coordinator in 1995 before coaching in the NFL 1996-2014 and 2020-21. Baker is senior defensive analyst for the defensive line, helping out defensive line coach Marco Coleman, whom Key brought back after a year at Michigan State.

Thacker called his hire “a game changer” and a huge benefit.

Thacker made a point to note the humility with which Sherrer and Baker have approached their roles. Thacker said that, in their first conversation, Sherrer stressed to him that he was coming to support the staff, the team and Thacker himself.

“I think the biggest compliment I can give him as a man is he’s come in and he’s been true to that,” Thacker said. “He’s been what he said he was going to be.”

As Key seeks advantages to help a team that probably won’t overwhelm many ACC opponents with talent, the added brainpower on Key’s staff could be one.

“I think (Thacker) is a heck of a coach and I’m really looking forward to what we’ve got once we get all the pieces to the puzzle together and get to the fall,” Sherrer said.