July 15, 2018 | ° F

Sophomore returns to triad in backfield

Photo by Tian Li |

Sophomore running back Justin Goodwin said he was happy to return back to offense after beginning the season as one of the starting cornerbacks. Goodwin joins a tandem of running backs who have had success this season.

Justin Goodwin eyed Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday as he took a three-step drop, forcing an interception at the season opener. 

For the Rutgers football sophomore, the turnover was momentous, marking first career interception in his first start at cornerback after switching from running back in training camp.

For Goodwin, his triumph was difficult but rewarding.

“It was a lot faster for me. I guess if you switch sides of the ball there are different tempos … so it’s definitely faster,” Goodwin said. “It was pretty exciting [getting an interception] for the first time.”

Photo: Tian Li

Head coach Kyle Flood said Goodwin is right in the mix at running back this week in practice, but it is still unclear how the reps will be distributed against Navy.

Head coach Kyle Flood announced last week Goodwin would be switching back to running back coming off an injury and preparing for a short week.

Senior fullback Michael Burton is excited to have another threat in the backfield behind him and happy to have Goodwin back in the running back room.

“It’s awesome having him back. He’s a good kid and a great player,” Burton said. “It’s just another weapon that we have in the backfield right now and he’s doing a great job. He’s learned all the stuff and he’s ready to go.”

While Goodwin did not play last Saturday against Penn State, he did practice, Flood said. 

The sophomore is now ready to participate against Navy. 

“He’s healthy now,” Flood said. “He was limited last week in practice a little bit, but now he’s back 100 percent and should get all the practice time in this week, and I would expect him to play.”

With a new weapon in the backfield, it leaves one to wonder what will happen with the other running backs that have been productive this season, namely sophomore Desmon Peoples and junior Paul James.

James is one of the top running backs in the nation and has been a starter since the second game last season. Peoples has been effective as a change-of-pace and feature back for the Knights, impressing since spring ball.

Flood assured that James and Peoples will remain the top two backs, but said Goodwin will get snaps without taking away from any the two players. 

“I think as we get into the game plan and we get a little further into the week, we’ll start to figure out how the reps will be doled out,” Flood said. “All three guys are talented guys and all three guys can help us move the ball. I think we will have to utilize them.”

Flood said that beyond a one-week season, any of the Knights’ positions are liable to change depending on the need for the game plan that week. 

“It wasn’t said that I was going to be at corner for the rest of the season. It was always open to return back to running back,” Goodwin said. “You always have to stay focused for any change the coaches make. I’m just trying to help the team out.”

But Goodwin admitted he is happy with the switch.

“I was excited. I missed playing running back a little bit and it was good news for me,” Goodwin said. “I feel like I’m settled here after we talked about it. I would prefer offense, though.”

For updates on the Rutgers football team, follow @TylerKaralewich and @TargumSports on Twitter.

Tyler Karalewich

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