Brad Stephens: Sheridan the ideal mentor for Jakes

Brad Stephens

Kawaun Jakes’ college career has been spent under the microscope.

Honestly, it’s not a reach to say that no WKU student is more scrutinized than Jakes, the Toppers’ longtime starting quarterback.

Jakes was labeled “immature” when he sprained his ankle playing pickup basketball and missed WKU’s 2010 spring practice period.

One year later he was labeled “mature” for cutting off his dreadlocks in favor of a crew cut.

Jakes was cheered by Topper fans when he replaced the struggling Brandon Smith in 2009.

He’s been booed plenty of times since by those same folks.

Everything he’s done, on and off the field, has been put under the microscope by fans.

It’s the reality of life for a Football Bowl Subdivision starting quarterback and it’s a reality that his position coach, former Michigan quarterback Nick Sheridan, knows well.

During his Wolverine career, Sheridan was held under a magnifying glass by 110,000 maize-and-blue-wearing zealots on each play of each Saturday in a fishbowl called “The Big House.”

He started four games in 2008, a year Michigan floundered to a 3-9 record, one of the worst in program history.

Sheridan became an easy target on message boards, talk radio and among those in the stands.

According to Sheridan, the pressures Jakes faces on a daily basis aren’t much different, even if they come on a smaller scale.

“You’re still a college athlete and some of the things that Western Kentucky players go through are the same things I had to go through as a student-athlete,” Sheridan said. “There’s a lot of time that goes into it, a lot of work that goes in, so it’s not as different as you’d think.”

Sheridan is in first season as a full-time assistant, but was on the staff last year working with quarterbacks as a graduate assistant.

The two have since developed a coach-player bond in which Sheridan can mentor Jakes based upon his own experiences.

Jakes spends a good amount of time in Sheridan’s Smith Stadium office, he said, soaking up knowledge on all aspects of sport’s toughest position.

“We go into his office he doesn’t really like to joke much, it’s just straight to business,” Jakes said. “He wants us to be the best quarterbacks we can be.”

While we know WKU’s defense will be good this season, the offense remains a question, especially after the graduation of Bobby Rainey.

Jakes must shoulder much of that burden if the Toppers are to move the football.

Being able to pick the brain of a guy like Sheridan who’s ‘been there, done that’ will only help.