By Tom Luicci
PISCATAWAY, N.J. (Aug. 3, 2014) -- In a backfield that’s both crowded and brimming with talent, Justin Goodwin knows the closer he gets to being a complete back the better his chances are of getting carries.
That’s a big part of the reason Rutgers’ sophomore running back has added as much weight as he has, going from the 180 he was listed at as a true freshman last season to 200 pounds this year.
The added weight, he feels, will help him become a better pass blocker – the one area of his game that was lacking last season.
“I still feel quick, but I can add even more weight if I need to,” Goodwin said following the Scarlet Knights’ third preseason practice today. “When I was in high school it was hard for me to gain weight. But when you come to college where they have everything for you – the nutrition, the diet, the working out – it’s easier.”
Goodwin (Madison, N.J.) proved to be an unexpected surprise after being pressed into action last season when Paul James was injured, finishing as Rutgers’ second-leading rusher with 521 yards (a 4.7-yard average) while adding 10 catches. He totaled six touchdowns.
But his pass protection and blitz pick-up skills were lacking – as they often are for running backs fresh from the high school ranks.
“The extra weight is going to help me with my pass blocking,” he said.
That added edge is needed with James back, with Desmon Peoples impressing the coaching staff with a strong spring showing and with the arrival of promising true freshmen running backs Josh Hicks and Robert Martin.
“I’ve never been around this many good running backs on one team,” Goodwin said.
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Though Peoples has been sidelined the past two practices, head coach Kyle Flood said it’s nothing to be concerned about.
“Peoples has been out. We’ll get him back in a couple of days. Nothing serious – a lower body issue,” Flood said. “Nothing extended, but it has certainly given Hicks and Martin a chance to take some reps they might not have gotten.”
Rutgers will hold a “half-scrimmage” on Tuesday, the first day the Scarlet Knights will be in full pads and able to hit.
“It will be just more team (situations) than some of the group work we would normally do,” Flood said. “(It’s our) first day in full pads. I know the boys will be excited. We’re going to tackle for the first time this training camp. It will give some of these lesser experience guys – I won’t say young – but some of the guys who didn’t play as big a role last year as they wanted to a chance to show the coach what they can do.
“Coaches will be on the field, (and) it’ll be a controlled setting. We’ll have a couple of different situations in at that point. Everything won’t be in. But it will be our first chance to go out there and play 11 on 11 and tackle, so we’ll do a little bit more than we have in some of the other practices.”
True freshman cornerback Dre Boggs (Coatesville, Pa.) continues to impress.
“I’m pleased with what Dre has done,” Flood said. “He’s playing hard. He’s making some plays out there. Now we’ll go back and watch the film and make sure he’s making them within the system. We want him to make plays.
“When I worked for Joe Gardi years ago he used to tell us don’t worry about the percentage grade on defense. Worry about production. So he certainly has had some production but we also need him to do it in the system, too.”
Flood finally got some cooperation from Mother Nature, with the heat and humidity rising to uncomfortable levels. Despite the oppressive conditions several players stood out.
“One of the positives of today’s practices, just watching on the field, is I thought some of the players we need to play at a very high level played at a very high level today,” Flood said. “Darius Hamilton played at a very high level today. I thought Steven Longa played at a very high level today. I thought Leonte Carroo played at a very high level today. We’ve got to go back and watch the film and see who else (did) and then who didn’t.”