After a rough first season in Nashville, Coach Mason is looking for signs of optimism as the countdown to fall camp has now hit single digits. Incoming freshman CB Donovan Sheffield has the chance to do that While the experience returning is going to help this team improve on what was a season to forget, Sheffield has the type of talent that can come in on August 6th and force Coach Mason to play him early and often, ahead of some more experienced players on the Commodore depth chart.
As a Recruit
Sheffield was a highly-regarded recruit from local Ensworth HS in Nashville. He chose to stay home ad play for the Commodores over other offers from Northwestern, Georgia Tech, Ole Miss, and Stanford. It was an impressive coup for a team that ended the season with only 3 wins. Sheffield pledged to Vandy early in his junior year and held tight to that commitment despite a near-complete staff overhaul on the Commodore sideline. Sheffield has the type of talent and football IQ to not only compete in the SEC, but win in the SEC.
A look at Sheffield's junior and senior highlights show just the type of talent this staff has coming to Nashville. Sheffield was the definition of a shutdown corner while in HS. His ball skills are unbelievable. Whether it is getting to the ball to make a tackle or being able to time his jump correctly to swat a pass away, all the necessary tools are there. In today's world there is way too much of the "head hunter" mentality when it comes to making hits. Sheffield has that same mentality, but with that the fundamental tackling skills that so many teams and coaches fail to teach in today's game. For someone as young as Sheffield, he has advanced footwork, and because of this he can leave space between himself and the wide receiver with no fear of the repercussions (missed tackle, blow by, etc) because of his closing speed. According to 247Sports, he ran a 4.72 40-yard-dash. If closing/recovery speed could be measured, I can guarantee you that it would be much quicker than 4.7.
While it may be difficult to come to terms with not giving Sheffield a redshirt as we enter fall camp, Mason does not have time to waste. Coach Franklin left this program with very high expectations year in and year out. Mason was unable to meet those expectations in year one, and the changes around the staff has brought some of that optimism back to the program. Vanderbilt has had its share of talented corners over the past several years (Casey Heyward, Myron Lewis, DJ Moore, to name a few) and this team has plenty of depth at the position going into the season. If Mason had 3 years or more guaranteed here in Nashville, I could understand not being too aggressive with Sheffield as a true freshman. However, Mason needs to show he has this program on the rise, and what better way to show that then by having your two top recruits from the 2015 class (Josh Smith and Donovan Sheffield) coming in and changing the perception of this team. The learning curve is definitely there for Sheffield, but the talent is too much to waste, especially in a season as crucial as this one is for the Commodores.
We have floated his senior highlights several times, so instead, here is a cutup of his interceptions, courtesy of Hudl: