WVU senior linebacker ready to lead youthful defensive unit in 2011
Published: Monday, April 11, 2011
Updated: Monday, April 11, 2011 22:04
In the past three years, Najee Goode has filled in for West Virginia standout linebackers Reed Williams, J.T. Thomas and Pat Lazear.
Now in his senior season, Goode will finally get his chance to anchor the Mountaineers' linebacking core.
According to the Cleveland native, the biggest role that comes along with that responsibility is leadership.
While he considered himself a leader on the field last season, he has built himself into one of the defense's most vocal players off the field.
"He's really taken over for J.T., Pat and Anthony (Leonard) in the film room," said WVU defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel. "He's a kid who has experience and is a leader. The guys gravitate to the guys who work hard.
"I can use him as an assistant coach this year."
Goode is the most experienced player on the team.
He has played in every game of his West Virginia career and enters the 2011 season tied for the most career games played along with defensive end Julian Miller and offensive lineman Don Barclay.
His time behind the likes of Williams, Thomas and others was the most important step in Goode developing as a player, he said. Now, he's the one who has to lead by example.
Unlike Williams and Thomas, though, Goode will be leading a defense that lost seven starters and has only six seniors on its two-deep roster.
"I learned my stuff from watching other guys do it right," Goode said. "So helping (the younger players) is the only thing on my mind right now. That is my role."
Known for his speed around the edge and being one of the strongest players on the team, Goode enters the 2011 season with 37 tackles, 26 of which came last season while he filled in for the injured Lazear.
Goode started 11 of the team's 13 games and recorded 8.5 tackles for loss a season ago, along with three sacks and one forced fumble against Pittsburgh.
His ability to play multiple linebacking positions is what made the 6-foot-1, 240-pound senior valuable to Casteel's crew in the past.
He's currently in the midst of having a "great spring," according to Casteel.
"He knows what he's doing, and he's playing really well," Casteel said.
Because of that, Casteel said he will likely cut back on Goode's repetitions as the Gold-Blue Spring Game nears in order to increase the repetitions for the younger players.
That also will allow Goode to step into more of an assistant coaching role.
"A lot of guys are quiet when they're learning. People play with energy, they just don't show it on the sidelines or before and after the play," Goode said. "I try to get them into it and try to get them out of their shell.
"It's a good feeling that you know what you're doing."