Sherritt shoulders more for Esks

J.C. Sherritt may only be entering his second year in the CFL, but the Eastern Washington...

J.C. Sherritt may only be entering his second year in the CFL, but the Eastern Washington University is assuming a much larger role on the Eskimos defence. (Perry Mah, Edmonton Sun)

Robert Tychkowski, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:42 PM ET

EDMONTON - It seems odd to ask somebody with just one year of pro football experience to be a cornerstone of the football team, but that’s what the Edmonton Eskimos depth chart is expecting of J.C. Sherritt.

Ready or not, and head coach Kavis Reed is convinced he is, the 24-year-old is going to have a major impact on the Eskimos defence, meaning he’ll have a major impact on the entire season.

With Rod Davis gone and the Eskimos changing their defensive formation from four linebackers to three, they’re calling on the sophomore to be the all-important man in the middle.

“The middle linebacker and the free safety are usually deemed as the heart and soul of the defence. Those are the guys that the team usually takes its tempo from,” said Reed. “And I think the young man is able to handle it. J.C. has all the intangibles; his leadership skills are really starting to show and that’s the part now that we have to have.”

For a coaching staff to let so much of the season ride on the shoulders of a player one year out of college, who’s only played 16 CFL games, is equal parts praise and pressure. It says a lot of about Sherritt’s character and ability, but it’s also an enormous responsibility.

“You have to love the position as a linebacker,” grinned the Eastern Washington University product, who welcomes the challenge. “You’re either going to embrace it or you’re not going to be playing out here for too long.”

Embracing it means hitting the fast forward button on his maturation process.

“At the pro level, after your rookie year, you’re expected to be a veteran. Whether it’s your second year or your 10th year, it’s time for you to step up,” he said, adding he knows he has to be even better than last season, in which he was the Western Conference’s candidate for rookie of the year.

“Absolutely I have to be better, I have to be a lot better.”

And he believes he is.

“It was nice to get a full off-season, six months to work on what you need to, instead of going from college to a full pro season, because once you get to the pro level you realize you had a lot more weaknesses than you thought you did.

“As a rookie, every week you’re seeing something you haven’t seen before. That’s what the whole off-season was about, identifying what I need to get better at and working on it. Things like pass rush and pass coverage — those are things I never really did much of in college. But when you get up here you realize you need to be a complete player.”

Because there is a difference between being one of top rookies in the CFL and being one of the top veterans.

“There was some good last year, but I definitely had my bad rookie moments,” said Sherritt. “Those are moments I’ll carry with me for the rest of my career, that’s what drove me in this off season. Those bad plays, you never let them leave your mind.

“You can’t lose a day, you have to get better every single day. That’s something I’m really trying to do, take advantage of very moment I have out here.”

Reed says the middle linebacker position is in good hands. He sees a longtime Eskimo in Sherritt, the kind of player who’s willing and able to set the standard.

“He’s on special teams scout teams, he’s on most of the special teams, he refuses to come out when it’s time for him to sit down from reps. He’s that guy who still remains hungry. Those are the guys you win with. The Eskimos are about having guys who end up on the Wall. I’m not saying he’s going to end up on that, but he has those traits and qualities. He’s going to be a long-standing Eskimo and do things the right way.”

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ROBERT.TYCHKOWSKI@Sunmedia.ca


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