When he signed with Alabama in 2015, Buckeye cornerback Kendall Sheffield was ranked the No. 4 cornerback in the nation and the No. 20 player in the class overall. He had offers from every blueblood program in the nation, and for good reason.
As a true freshman, however, he was not ready to play. And as a redshirt freshman, he decided he’d rather spend his time at junior college.
Now with Ward off to the NFL, the Buckeyes need the returning cornerbacks to step up. In Urban Meyer’s program, last year is never good enough, and that is certainly true for Sheffield. An opening week matchup against Indiana in 2017 opened Sheffield’s eyes, which also happens to be an area of improvement for him this spring.
“He’s done a really nice job of just really concentrating on his eyes, because playing his position, for sure what you look at is everything and when you’re supposed to look at it,” said cornerbacks coach Taver Johnson. “He’s done a really, really good job and probably one of the best jobs in the room at making sure he does that. Whether it’s keeping my eyes to the hip, the receiver’s hands, whatever that may be, and it’s getting him in position even better, in terms of making plays.”
Last season was the third team for Sheffield in three seasons, but this spring he was able to show a growing comfort in his surroundings. Johnson senses it as well.
“I do, and that’s what happens when you’re around,” he said. “Especially in this place for a year and playing and things like that. I think he’s gotten settled in, he understands the expectations and that’s everything. For sure. That’s what all the young guys and the guys coming in have to understand.”
Sheffield still has yet to speak with the OSU football media. His coaches say he’s just shy, but it would also help to explain a player who was still trying to find his footing as a Buckeye last year.
It would seem that those days are over, however, because Sheffield has now participated in two varsity sports at Ohio State, so he must be feeling pretty good about things. More than that, though, is the fact that Urban Meyer and his defensive coaching staff felt good enough about where Sheffield is right now to allow him to run track.
If they still had questions about him as a corner, it would have been difficult to allow him to participate in another sport. In that same vein, if Sheffield wasn’t extremely comfortable as a corner, then he wouldn’t have had the confidence to go and do something else for a bit.
Even though Taver Johnson wasn’t at OSU when Sheffield decided to run track, he saw no issues with it.
“No, not at all because from what I understand it was right towards the end of winter workouts and everything like that,” he said. “All of the football stuff we were doing, he was still involved. All of the lifting and all that stuff. It didn’t take away at all. If anything, you like that because he’s competing. Anytime you compete that helps you out.”
Sheffield would go on to break the Ohio State 60M record with a time of 6.63 seconds.
— Ohio State T&F/XC (@OhioState_TFXC) February 17, 2018
“Yeah, I mean I heard he was fast and then I actually went and watched him,” Johnson said. “A bunch of us went when the track meet was here, and I thought someone was chasing him with a knife or something. He looked scary running.”
Physically, Kendall Sheffield has everything a coach could want in a cornerback. He has the size (6-0 193), speed, and the agility as well.
More than anything else, however, is his desire to get better every day. That will always be what separates the good from the great, and Sheffield doesn’t want to settle for good.
“He is a physical guy and a physical specimen,” Johnson said. “Seeing him play physical a little bit more is what we talk about. He wants to. Most of that comes when you are trying to do it exact, you are thinking too much, now hopefully those instincts can take over now that he understands.
“I think the sky is the limit for Kendall. He and I talked about that a couple of days ago. The one thing that he made a lot of strides at was really, really trying to be very detailed in exactly what we were asking him to do. I think he did the best job of that in terms of eye-placement, anything with the techniques and it showed up. It really did show up for him this spring and he made some great strides for sure.”