By Tom Luicci
PISCATAWAY, N.J. (Aug. 14, 2014) – With exactly two weeks left before Rutgers’ season opener against Washington State, any chance Justin Goodwin has of making an effective transition from running back to cornerback requires putting him on a fast track.
That’s why the sophomore continued to get a steady diet of reps with the first and second team defense on day two of his position switch.
The 6-0, 200-pound Goodwin was moved to cornerback on Wednesday to fill a need in the secondary. As a true freshman last year he was the Scarlet Knights’ second-leading rusher with 521 yards, accounting for six touchdowns while flashing big-play ability on several occasions.
“I think it shows you how much we value him as a football player,” coach Kyle Flood said following practice today. “Like I said yesterday, he’s one of the more valuable guys on this team. He proved that as a true freshman.
“He’s somebody that when he’s in the game we’re better because he’s in the game. He’s a good athlete but he’s a very reliable football player. He will learn what he needs to do and be in the right place and given the opportunity he will make plays.”
Goodwin nearly made one of those plays during today’s practice, appearing to come up with an interception on a play he was covering Leonte Carroo, Rutgers’ star wide receiver. He was the one who had to tell the coaches that it wasn’t a pick.
“It hit the ground. Almost,” said Goodwin, who last played cornerback in high school.
While Flood saw a player “getting better” and “a little bit more comfortable,” Goodwin wasn’t so sure.
“Maybe it was a little bit better,” he said. “It’s still tough. I’m still trying to stay in control and know everything at the same time.”
With sophomore Nadir Barnwell out indefinitely with a sprained ankle and true freshman Dre Boggs out for an undetermined about of time due to a lower body injury, Rutgers has suddenly found itself short corners with the season opener bearing down. Boggs had arguably been the team’s most impressive newcomer this summer.
So Flood dipped into his running back depth for an answer.
“I never thought of it for a second until we made the decision,” Flood said of moving Goodwin. “Watching him in high school he was a dominant player at the running back position. I feel he would be that in college and he didn’t really give me anything as a freshman to believe any differently.
“So we were very excited with him as a running back. We’re fortunate to have some depth at that position. It gives us some flexibility. And he seemed like the best choice to try.”
Goodwin, asked the most challenging aspect of the move, said “I think all of it is.”
“Once I know everything better I’ll be able to react quicker,” he added.
Flood said the experiment will last at least through Saturday’s second and final scrimmage, after which he will assess whether to move forward with Goodwin on defense.
Senior strong safety Lorenzo Waters sees no reason why the switch won’t work.
“He seems pretty poised out there. It’s pretty impressive,” said Waters. “With him being out there on the field I can talk to him, help him get aligned and help him with his responsibility and kind of dumb down an explanation of what he’s supposed to do.
“From what I’ve seen so far he has done a very good job.”