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Rutgers Football: Good Luck to Goodwin

Sophomore running back Justin Goodwin is getting a tryout at cornerback after a rash of injuries at that position (again).

Don't forget: one INT, and he is back on offense.
Don't forget: one INT, and he is back on offense.
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Let's get this out of the way: "Plan A" was Plan A for a reason. "Plan A", of course, meaning Rutgers playing, you know, cornerbacks (like Nadir Barnwell and Dre Boggs) at the cornerback spot, and Justin Goodwin at running back. But Plan B, in which Goodwin plays cornerback to reinforce an injury-plagued (again) secondary, may not be a disaster.  Here's why.

Goodwin was a stud athlete at a school not traditionally known for cranking out D-1 football players. He is 6'2" and 200 lbs, with great speed and agility. He also had enough football smarts to make a huge impact as a true freshman when Paul James suffered an injury.  At a relatively tiny school like Madison, a public school in suburban Morris County, his combination of size, athleticism, and smart for the game of football made Justin Goodwin a rare commodity: a star athlete who would have been an impact player anywhere, but who was a supernova talent at Madison High.

When a high school like Madison is fortunate enough to have a player like Goodwin with game-changing athletic abilities, there are generally two positions from which the school can maximize the player's abilities and get as much "bang-for-the-buck" as possible: running back and safety. Goodwin obviously excelled as a running back, but he was also a very good defensive back. Madison further took advantage of Goodwin's overall athleticism by using him as a receiver, return man, and even occasionally as a punter (seriously). It's a wonder the kid got any rest at all.

Here are his combined defensive stats from three years as a varsity defensive player for Madison: 71 tackles (51 solo), 4.7 tackles per game, 4 tackles for loss (as a DB, keep in mind), 7 INTs, 18 passes defended and 2 fumble recoveries.  Not too shabby. His 11 minute highlight is almost entirely nastiness on the offensive side of the ball, but the very first play on the tape shows Goodwin playing corner and hauling in an INT, which he promptly runs back 35 yards or so. Remember, all he has to do is catch the ball, and he is an offensive player again.

Goodwin has the size and-flat out athleticism, coupled with an obviously nimble football brain, to excel at any skill position on the field. It will not take him long to pick up cornerback at the collegiate level, and he should be able to help what is unfortunately, once again, a position without a lot of experienced depth for Rutgers.

There is another way to see a silver lining here. Rutgers is deep at running back, a position group which as recently as 2011 (i.e. the last year before the time of the Flood) was aptly described as "chaotic". James is clearly the premier option, but Desmon Peoples has now strung together two consecutive off-seasons where he has shown tremendous growth, and now is his chance to do it for real. Behind them, both true freshman RBs, Josh Hicks and Robert Martin, have drawn praise from Coach Flood and other observers.  So we can take this as a sign that Flood has straightened out two offensive position groups that were perennial question marks under Schiano: running back and QB (which is also looking stocked now).

Clearly, it is not ideal to move a pivotal player to the other side of the ball two weeks(!) before kickoff out of necessity, but this is not the end of the world either. Like Ruhann Peele last year, Justin Goodwin will be more than serviceable at cornerback, and this move wouldn't be possible if Rutgers wasn't loaded with offensive playmakers. Don't despair Rutgers fans: Boggs and Barnwell will be back eventually, and in the meantime, we could do far worse than Justin Goodwin.