Eoghan Kerry knew that going from high school to college would be a big adjustment.
He certainly didn’t expect to experience the amount of change he’s gone through in his first year, however.
A freshman linebacker with the Colorado Buffaloes (1-9, 1-6 Pac-12), Kerry went from one of the best high school programs in the country to a college team struggling to stay competitive. The coaches who recruited him to Boulder have been fired. And, he’s changed positions numerous times.
“It’s frustrating and I think anybody can see that from the outside or the inside,” Kerry said of the Buffs’ season. “Everyone wants to win and we go in every week with faith and trust that we’re going to come out on top. Things haven’t gone our way; some things have. The coaching change was definitely hard.”
Kerry was a star at Mater Dei (Calif.) High School and came to CU to play for head coach Karl Dorrell and defensive coordinator Chris Wilson. Both were fired on Oct. 2, however, after a 0-5 start. Mike Sanford took over as interim head coach and Gerald Chatman as defensive coordinator.
Despite the adversity, Kerry has rolled with the punches, learning from each experience as the Buffs go through the final two weeks of the season. CU visits No. 15 Washington (8-2, 5-2) on Saturday in Seattle (7:14 p.m., Pac-12 Network).
“Being a freshman, signing myself over to these coaches, and then having to change is definitely difficult,” he said. “I’m grateful for Dorrell and Wilson and what they did, but I’m grateful for Chatman and Sanford and (linebackers coach Jeff) Smart and what they’ve done. too. I feel like I’ve gotten to learn from two different families, which is nice. I feel like that’s kind of doubled my growth from being here.”
Although Kerry has yet to get on the field on defense, he’s been a key special teams player and could be an important part of the defense in the future. Since arriving in January, he’s often been praised by coaches and teammates.
“Going against Eoghan has made me a lot better this year,” fifth-year junior guard Tommy Brown, who is also a Mater Dei alum, said this week. “I think Eoghan is smart, physical and tough. He’s gonna be a great player for Colorado and I think the background at Mater Dei helps. But, when it comes down to it, it’s Eoghan’s character and he goes out there and works hard every day.”
Kerry was a three-star recruit coming out of Mater Dei and was rated as a top-80 player from California. The qualities Brown listed have helped Kerry play an important role on special teams.
Defensively, it’s been a year of change. Recruited as an outside linebacker, he was moved to inside linebacker in the spring. He’s learned three different positions at inside linebacker.
“There’s definitely been a lot of change, position wise, coaching wise, scheme wise,” Kerry said. “So there’s been a lot of adjusting to do, but at the end of the day, I think it’s made me a better player. I’ve had to work harder than I would have if things were kind of stagnant. So I’m grateful for that.”
Playing special teams has allowed Kerry to get a taste for the speed of college football. Along the way, he’s been able to learn from senior inside linebackers Robert Barnes, Josh Chandler-Semedo and Quinn Perry.
“They are really beneficial to us younger guys,” Kerry said. “Just being able to watch them not only play the game, but see their leadership, see how they act off the field, has been tremendously helpful for me learning as a player and just as a young man.”
With the senior trio graduating, Kerry will have an opportunity to move into the linebacker rotation next year. He’s still learning the footwork needed to excel inside and he got some reps with the second-team defense this week.
“(Getting into the game the last two weeks), that’s the hope every week, but at the end of the day, I’m gonna do my job,” he said. “Whether that’s on special teams, whether that’s on defense, I’m gonna do what the team needs me to do and do it the best I can.”
He’s been doing that all year, and that’s allowed him to learn and grow through challenges.
“It’s hard,” he said, “but life is about how you respond to stuff, so put your head down and work.”