FAYETTEVILLE — Michael Scherer is the new linebackers coach at Arkansas and inherits a pair of talented starters returning.
Scherer will begin his first year coaching the linebackers at Arkansas with both Grant Morgan and Bumper Pool returning. Scherer served as a defensive analyst on Pittman’s staff last season and now gets the opportunity to coach the unit he is most familiar with since he was an outstanding linebacker at Missouri.
“I’m thankful for it, obviously. I’m thankful to Coach Pittman, for sure,” Scherer said. “I’ve had the opportunity to be around a lot of great football players and lot of great coaches, and I’ve learned over the years kind of seeing how it works. I’m definitely ready for this no matter what age I am. I’m ready to push these guys to be the best they possibly can be, and that’s the only way I know. The age thing, I get, but I only know one way to do this thing.”
Pittman liked what he saw from Scherer in the one season he served as defensive analyst.
“Michael knows Barry’s system, knows it inside and out,” Pittman said. “He also came off the — he went to the field at the Florida game — the kids that we have on our team raved about him and his coaching ability. And again, he knows the system. He has many ties in Missouri, and so we’re going to put him in that area as well as spots in Texas.”
Scherer came to Arkansas with Barry Odom, who is the defensive coordinator, prior to the 2020 season. Scherer is quick to credit Odom for his rise up the coaching ranks at a young age and is pleased Odom remained with the Hogs with others in pursuit of him.
“It’s awesome for this program,” Scherer said. “He’s a great coach, a great leader of men, the players love him, I love him. He’s been probably the biggest role model in my life the last few years, and he’s shaped my coaching career into what it is today. He’s a guy I can’t thank enough for everything he’s done.”
When Pittman was out against Florida due to COVID, Scherer became one of the coaches on the field since Odom served as head coach that game.
“It helped a lot,” Scherer said. “Obviously I’m very familiar with all the players through that process and everything I’ve been doing with the team. It almost carried on as normal business. Obviously I had a few more responsibilities that week, but nothing crazy. Just kind of carried on what I was doing throughout the year and helped them where I could.”
Morgan and Pool combined for 212 tackles last fall, but all the other linebackers on the team had a total of 41 tackles with the majority of those coming from Hayden Henry (25) and Andrew Parker (12). So developing depth is a key?
“It’s awesome to have leaders like Grant and Bumper and Hayden Henry and Dede Edwards coming back as seniors,” Scherer said. “They definitely set the tone for the room. They’re the example for all the guys. Obviously being younger and being new to this, it’s good to have them to also be able to hammer those guys into shape because the fact of the matter is they’ve been very successful in what we’ve done. To the younger guys, if they want to be successful, they just look at those guys.”
He will be part of a defensive staff with Odom and Sam Carter (cornerbacks). The three have been together since Missouri.
“I’ve been working with Sam and Barry for I think seven years now,” Scherer said. “Barry came to Mizzou when I was still a player there, and he was an analyst there, I think, for the last two years of my career there. From that point on, being at Missouri with Barry, we are extremely familiar with each other. Obviously we all traveled south together, so that relationship is super strong. Sam is like a brother, Coach Odom is another father figure to me and has been that in my life and has been since the moment he came back to Mizzou. It’s kind of just continuing on what we have, to be honest with you.”
Scherer feels serving as defensive analyst last season helped prepare him for this job. He described what some of his duties were last season.
“Last year as an analyst I’d say I obviously spent time around the linebackers, but I also did a lot of deep-diving into our scheme and the plays we were running and the calls we were making during a game so that when I was up in the box with Coach Odom I could help him make adjustments or offer suggestions as he’s calling the game,” Scherer said. “We can work together sitting next to each other. Really, I studied the scheme that we ran for hours and hours on end, figured out every position on the field so that in a game I could be useful and make adjustments or help out where I could.”
While doing that Scherer obviously made a good impression on the players. Many had praise for him.
“I mean it’s awesome that the guys feel that way,” Scherer said. “Since I’ve been here they’ve been awesome to me and I’ve tried to do everything that I can to help them become better players and better human beings, and never did I plan on them saying anything about me ever to anyone ever. I like to be in the background of everything, but I really care about those guys and they know that, and I care about them more than just football. And I think it’s an honor that those guys feel however they feel about me, but they also know that I’m going to push them to the absolute max and I think they also respect that out of me because I’m going to be hard on them and they know that and I think that’s exactly what they want.”
One key for Scherer and all assistants is recruiting. Pittman has stated he wants to improve recruiting and Scherer talked about where he will be in charge of that area.
“I’m definitely going to be in the Missouri area,” Scherer said. “That’s what I’m comfortable with, but then again I’m going to go find the best linebackers I possibly can in the country. I don’t care where they’re at. If you look at Coach Odom and his defenses and the success of the linebackers throughout these defenses, there’s no reason why anyone in the country wouldn’t want to come play linebacker here. Just look at last year, and you can go back to Missouri. Look at the guys we had there. I’m comfortable in Missouri and I know a lot of people there. I’m definitely going to touch parts of Dallas, but I’m going to go all over and find the best players I can.”
In recruiting, Scherer feels being young is an advantage.
“You know I think it helps to be able to relate to the kids,” Scherer said. “I also know I think everyone’s goal when they go to college is to graduate, and it wasn’t too long ago that I went through that process of having to go to school, do football and everything else that comes along with it and did it at a high level and successfully. So I think that is a big part of it. I think a big part of it is I’ve been in these kids shoes even from a recruiting standpoint not that long ago. It was ten or so 11 years ago. But not that long ago I was also being recruited so I understand some of the pressures they go through. Now social media, Twitter and all of that, wasn’t what it is now, so that’s definitely different. I don’t think the unlimited calls and texts that wasn’t a thing. But I understand the process of recruiting. You’re getting hounded by coaches. You’re getting hounded by recruiting services all of that.
“And then also it’s the process of making the transition to college and what that’s going to take, what that is going to look like. The ups and downs that you go through being a college kid, being a college athlete. I’m not super far removed from that. I still remember very much so what it was like and so I think being younger you have the ability to recall that and be closer to it. Be able to really talk to the kids and have them give you feedback that’s real and honest, because they know the position you’re coming from. They know your perspective on things that… Hey this guy that’s my coach once did what I’m trying to do, and I think we bring that to the table. Also it’s recruiting now a days you’ve got to do whatever you’ve got to do. There is times that you hop on video games with kids. All different kinds of things that being a little younger, I’m not great at video games, but I’ve got a little bit of experience.”
Has Odom and Pitman coached you any on recruiting since the promotion?
“To be honest they both just told me to be myself,” Scherer said. “There is a reason that they thought that I was fit for this job. I understand the importance of recruiting at this level, and what it does for our team and our program. But it’s really just be yourself right? You’re here for a reason, and that’s it. I understand that recruiting is a lot of work. It’s building real, true relationships with kids so maybe that’s one of the things, but that’s just kind of who I feel like I am day to day, and I’ve also had the ability to watch coach Odom, to watch Sam, to watch all of the great coaches that I’ve been with in the past recruit and I’ve just sat back and watched them. Kind of took mental note of everything that they were doing. So I had that base underneath me and now it just comes down to being me and showing kids what we can offer.”
The new defensive line coach is Jermial Ashley who is the lone non-Missouri guy on the staff on that side of the ball. Scherer talked about Ashley.
“He’s an incredible coach,” Scherer said. “Very smart man. We’ve already been in the film room talking over some things. He comes from the background of a three down front there in Tulsa and not only that but they also produced the national defensive player of the year who was a linebacker. So there is a lot of things that I can learn from him and what he knows about our scheme and then transfer that over to our players and hopefully we can have similar success doing what we’re doing.”
At Arkansas, Scherer will replace Rion Rhoades coaching the linebackers.