The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

January 1, 2012

HERTZEL COLUMN: Goode now looks part at linebacker

MIAMI — Najee Goode had just finished a long session with the media as part of the necessary evils that come with being in a BCS bowl game like this week’s Orange Bowl meeting with Atlantic Coast Conference champion Clemson and turned to exit the room.

Jeff Casteel, the Mountaineers’ defensive coordinator, took one look at him as he exited, his shoulders broad, his body solid, shook his head and commented:

“If you look at him now, he looks like a linebacker.”

He said that because he had just been discussing how that wasn’t always the case. When he first began recruiting Goode he was playing at Benedictine High in Cleveland, a program with a rich history in Ohio, having won seven state championships stretching as far back as 1957.

When Casteel first saw Goode he dabbled as a linebacker but really was the team’s quarterback.

You had to be a little clairvoyant to project Goode into a middle linebacker who would graduate college five years later playing in a BCS bowl game with dreams of an NFL career, yet Casteel has been pretty good at that.

Certainly, over the years, he’s had to do a lot of patchwork with linebackers, taking undersized, not terribly heavily recruited athletes and turning them into centerpieces for his defense. WVU’s history is dotted with such players, including Reed Williams, Ben Collins and Bobby Hathaway.

Goode’s case was even more special, for WVU knew the kind of athlete he was, his father, John, having been a fifth-round draft pick of the St. Louis Cardinals in 1984 and having played two years in the NFL with St. Louis and the Philadelphia Eagles.

Goode was a good student and good citizen as well.

“He comes from a wonderful family. When you talk to them it doesn’t take you long to figure that out,” Casteel said. “His dad may be harder on him than I am, and his dad and mom are really good people. What’s more, he comes from a quality program.”

Goode is the youngest in the family. Brother Tariq lettered at Youngstown State as a wide-out in 2006, while Wakeem finished his senior season at Hampton in 2008 leading the team with 111 tackles at linebacker en route to an all-MEAC conference second team selection.

“We looked at him as a guy who we thought would develop into a linebacker. He had to get bigger physically, he could run, was a good athlete as a quarterback. He was smart,” Casteel said.

Despite all that, there was a problem. WVU had gotten in the mix late and had no scholarships available, meaning that Goode started off a walk-on.

In a way, having that walk-on season was a blessing for Goode, as it gave him a chance to grow and to also learn. He is what you would call a cerebral player who knows how to handle all three linebacking positions — the Will, the Mike and the Sam.

That, of course, gives Casteel great flexibility over the course of a season when injuries deplete the ranks.

“He did a great job,” Casteel would say of Goode’s development. “He has really matured and become a leader. He’s made a lot of big plays for us the last two years.”

He did it the right way, too. He really never had lifted weights until his sophomore year in high school, but by his sophomore year in college he was pumping more than 500 pounds, which is the equivalent of two pretty good sized linebackers.

Certainly he has accepted the role of leader, along with such players as Julian Miller and Keith Tandy on the defense.

That has been important as the Mountaineers readied themselves for Clemson and a chance to propel themselves into the national picture for next year with a victory.

“I told the younger guys to enjoy it,” he said.

It was a philosophy he picked up from his former head coach Bill Stewart.

“When Coach Stewart was coaching, he would tell us to stop and smell the roses because you have to do it sometime,” he explained. “Well, this is a chance to do it — Miami, on the beach, beautiful weather, beautiful girls.”

Goode understands just how important this game is.

“I was sitting at Oliverio’s with Keith and my boys. We were watching the Cincinnati game and the clock hit triple zero and Keith’s hand starting shaking. I just threw my stuff up in the air. It was like we hit the lottery,” Goode said of the night they clinched the Orange Bowl bid, needing Cincinnati to lose.

“We knew the situation. We were ranked higher than them. Only eight teams get to go to a BCS game and that means a lot to our conference and a lot to showcase our talent. For a first-year coach like Dana Holgorsen it’s a huge thing. Going against a first-class team like Clemson gives us a chance to showcase our talent.”

It is the biggest stage college football has, other than the championship game.

“It’s like the Super Bowl of college football,” Goode said. “In college football they have four BCS games. In the NFL they have one Super Bowl.”

Casteel expects him to go out in a big way.

“There’s no question he’s really grown throughout the four or five years here,” Casteel said. “I believe his last game here will be his best game.”

Email Bob Hertzel at Follow on Twitter @bhertzel.

Text Only
WVU Sports
  • HERTZEL COLUMN- Luck open to WVU fans’ suggestions

    West Virginia’s fans have spoken, perhaps not verbally but nonetheless have had their voices heard, over the past few years as attendance has fallen at the Mountaineers’ football and basketball games.

    April 22, 2014

  • WVU athletic department to form Fan Experience Committee

    The West Virginia University Department of Intercollegiate Athletics is forming a fan experience committee to discuss the needs of Mountaineer fans with the hopes of enhancing the fan experience at its events.

    April 22, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN- Popovich, now 73, wishes he were playing baseball today

    If you’re a long-time baseball fan, you may recall Morgantown’s Paul Popovich.

    April 22, 2014

  • Mountaineers ready for slate of rivalry games

    Looking to put together a late-season run to get into the NCAA championships, West Virginia faces a pair of midweek rivalry games in a crucial five-game week coming off winning two of three games at Oklahoma.

    April 22, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN- Summer, Alabama will be used to get WVU’s mind right

    The ink had barely dried on the final reports out of West Virginia’s spring practice when thoughts turned forward toward the lazy, hazy days of late summer, days that will bring us into football season with a game that can either change the entire image of WVU football or sour it even further.

    April 21, 2014

  • Arrest warrant out for WVU recruit

    West Virginia University’s newest men’s basketball recruit, Tarik Phillip, has an order out for his arrest in North Carolina, according to a story in The Dominion-Post, which said three Gaston County Magistrate office spokespersons confirmed.

    April 20, 2014

  • WVU baseball powers past Oklahoma, 9-5

    The WVU baseball team tied a season high with 18 hits to defeat Oklahoma, 9-5, on Saturday afternoon at L. Dale Mitchell Park.
    The win gives the Mountaineers their second Big 12 series win of the season and improves the overall record to 19-16 and 4-7 in conference play. Oklahoma drops to 25-16 overall and 5-7 in Big 12 play.

    April 20, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Under pressure, NCAA decides to change rules

    At first glance, it appears that they do not go hand-in-hand, a pair of rules changes the NCAA’s Legislative Council approved this week, sending them off for what seems to be smooth sailing toward becoming rules.

    April 18, 2014

  • Means, WVU baseball shut out Oklahoma

    Junior left-hander John Means of the WVU baseball team threw eight shutout innings and the Mountaineers had a five-run first inning en route to a 7-0 victory over Oklahoma on Thursday evening at L. Dale Mitchell Park.
    The Mountaineers (18-15, 3-6 Big 12) broke a six-game Big 12 losing streak after being swept by TCU and Oklahoma State in back-to-back weekends. WVU had 16 hits and did not make an error for the second-straight game.

    April 18, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN: Dr. Graber disagrees with Gee’s stance on Turnbull firing

    Dr. Stephen Graber, an associate professor at the West Virginia University School of Medicine, is among the latest WVU teachers to deplore Oliver Luck’s firing of veteran wrestling coach Craig Turnbull.
    He raised some significant questions about that issue last Monday in a meeting of the WVU Faculty Senate.

    April 18, 2014

Featured Ads
WVU Sports Highlights
NDN Sports
House Ads
NCAA Breaking News
NCAA Photos