Sherels making his mark with Vikings

Marcus Sherels is listed at 5-foot-10 on the Minnesota Vikings

roster. He’s probably closer to 5-8. On his tiptoes.

He didn’t start playing cornerback until halfway through his

college career and played on one of the worst defenses in the

nation as a senior at the University of Minnesota.

So his resume didn’t exactly scream ”NFL prospect” when he

showed up for a tryout with the Minnesota Vikings, alongside dozens

of other hopefuls and wannabes about a year and a half ago.

But every time Sherels seems ready to be counted out, he finds a

way to make it impossible for the Vikings to let him go.

In a defensive backfield full of question marks, Sherels has

been making enough plays this preseason to make the coaches forget

about his mistakes and give him serious consideration for a spot on

the 53-man roster.

”He seems to be one of those guys,” defensive backs coach Joe

Woods said of Sherels’ knack for being around the ball. ”Every

couple of years I’ll get a guy like that and right now he’s that

guy.”

With so many players to evaluate in such a short period of time,

one little mistake can be the difference between making the team

and getting cut. Sherels dug himself a hole on Saturday night in

Seattle when he lost a fumble on a punt return in the first half,

earning him an earful from special teams coordinator Mike

Priefer.

”The great thing about him, he came off the sideline and I was

talking to him, he was looking me in the eye,” Priefer said. ”He

didn’t put his head down and feel sorry for himself. He knew he

made a mistake and I was giving him a friendly reminder of what he

needed to do, not to do that again.”

It didn’t take Sherels long to get back into everyone’s good

graces. On the very next series, he intercepted a pass and raced 64

yards for a touchdown in the 20-7 victory, a play that stands as

the Vikings only touchdown in two preseason games so far.

”You have to come prepared like you’re going to be on the 53,

day-in and day-out,” Sherels said.

That he is even in position to think about making the roster of

an NFL team is an accomplishment in itself. Sherels came to the

Golden Gophers from Rochester, Minn., as a receiver and spent his

first two seasons at the position. The coaching staff then asked

him to make the drastic move of switching to defense.

”I was a little skeptical at first,” Sherels said. ”But it

was a natural adjustment. I figured out that I like cornerback a

lot better than receiver.”

The Gophers were one of the worst teams in the country during

Sherels’ final two years in maroon and gold, so it was no surprise

that an undersized cornerback who had only been playing the

position for two years went undrafted in 2010.

Like his brother Mike, who played linebacker for the Gophers,

Marcus got an offer to tryout with the Vikings. He did enough to

impress the coaches that he earned a roster spot for training camp

before spending most of last season on the practice squad.

With a year of practice, and watching fellow small guy Antoine

Winfield excel in a big man’s game, Sherels has been even more

impressive this year with his ball skills, timing and knowledge of

the defense.

”He doesn’t talk at all. I’ve probably heard him talk openly in

a meeting a hand full of times,” Woods said. ”But he’s always

into it. We give those guys tests, just in terms of our

information, coverage-wise, offensive ID. He scores higher than

everybody. He just studies it.”

Coach Leslie Frazier said Sherels showed up for training camp

with an extra 10 pounds of muscle to help him battle the receivers

that dwarf him across the line of scrimmage. The quiet kid has also

been carrying himself with a little more swagger.

”A combination of the two has probably contributed to the way

he’s playing,” Frazier said. ”He’s performing well for us and

looking forward to see how he does in these next two ball games,

but he’s really done a good job.”

With Cedric Griffin and Chris Cook both coming off of knee

injuries and Asher Allen missing a lot of time in the preseason

with a toe injury, the opportunity is there for Sherels. His

ability to return punts – and hold on to the ball – may be the

difference in him making the team or not.

”It was disappointing what happened to him last week but I

still have a lot of faith in what he can accomplish for us,”

Priefer said. ”Hopefully, he’ll do well with his

opportunities.”

NOTES: The Vikings waived WR Dominique Johnson and signed LB

Kyle O’Donnell, a rookie from Liberty to help add depth at the

position. LBs Kenny Onatolu, Heath Farwell and Jasper Brinkley have

all missed time with injuries early in the preseason.

Follow Jon Krawczynski on Twitter:

www.twitter.com/APkrawczynski.