AUBURN, Ala. — It was clear at times during spring practice that the Auburn safeties had certain advantages.
Seniors Tray Matthews, Stephen Roberts and Nick Ruffin have a wealth of knowledge and experience. They know what to do on the field and how to execute.
It also was evident that depth was an issue. Fortunately, defensive coordinator Kevin Steele had a fast solution: Michael Sherwood.
RELATED: Post-spring depth chart for Tigers
The former walk-on stepped in at several spots this spring, providing a quick fix.
“He’s a smart football player and he loves to practice. You could grab him and put him in there at Buck and he’d go do it,” Steele said. “That’s just the kind of guy he is. He’s our utility guy… It doesn’t matter what position, just grab him and throw him in there.”
While the Tigers will add several freshmen defensive backs at the end of May — Carlito Gonzales, Jordyn Peters, Traivon Leonard will compete for playing time — Sherwood could continue playing a key role.
That’s even more true with the recent departure of Marlon Character Jr.
Sherwood might not be the most imposing player on Auburn’s defense, but the 5-9, 175-pound defensive back has played so well he’s earned the nickname “Dirty Mike.” And through spring practice, “Dirty” exceeded expectations.
“He’s done really well,” Roberts said. “Dirty is a guy that brings energy. Anywhere he goes, he brings energy. He’s kind of a hype guy around here, but he can really play. He’s really smart, has great hips and speed as well.”
Sherwood also added production to a unit seeking to cause more disruption and turnovers.
He came away with the only interception in one of Auburn’s first scrimmages at the end of March.
RECRUITING REWIND: Jordyn Peters could contribute immediately in secondary
“He’s a fun guy, comes to practice every day and gives you everything he’s got. He’s a tough guy. He knows what he’s doing, knows how to play corner, knows how to play safety, knows how to play Star, knows how to play Mike,” Steele said.
If a minor hiccup or problem arose, Sherwood was someone Auburn could look to for an answer.
“He’s going to tell you what to do even if he doesn’t know what to do, so he gets everybody on the same page. That’s not a bad thing sometimes,” Steele said. “He’s kind of a coach on the field. It’s fun to have a guy where you can just say if something happens if someone tweaks an ankle, ‘Dirty go play this, Dirty go play that.’”
Sherwood even managed to impress new secondary coach Greg Brown in a short time frame.
As Auburn shifts players and experiments with different combinations, Sherwood could be creating a role for himself in 2017.
“There’s nothing off the table. Mike’s done a great job. He’s smart, he’s intelligent, and he works at it,” Brown said. “He’s kind of our jack of all trades. Somebody goes down, he knows any of the positions. He’ll go in there and do it to the best of his abilities. Right now, we’re just such a work in progress. We don’t know what’s going to happen in the fall. But, yeah, we love having Mike.”