Redhawks return a top tackler

Saturday, August 16, 2008

It's not like Jared Goodson came out of nowhere last year.

But after seeing limited action as a freshman, the Southeast Missouri State linebacker turned plenty of heads with a breakout sophomore season.

Goodson, starting all 11 games, was second on the Redhawks in tackles with 98, trailing only two-time first-team all-Ohio Valley Conference selection Adam Casper's 112 stops.

Goodson wound up fourth in the OVC in tackles, while tying for third on the squad in tackles for loss with 5.5 and tying for the lead in fumble recoveries with two.

"It was a good year. I was able to fly around and make some plays," Goodson said.

Now that Casper has graduated, the Redhawks are counting on Goodson to again make plenty of plays as Southeast tries to turn around its struggling program.

While somewhat undersized by college linebacker standards at 6 foot 2 and 215 pounds, Southeast coach Tony Samuel said Goodson seems like a natural for the position. And Samuel emphasized that Goodson still has his best days ahead of him.

"He is extremely fast and has a great nose for the football," said Samuel, whose squad is finishing its second week of fall camp and will scrimmage at 3 p.m. today at Houck Stadium. "This year he'll have a lot more experience. I think he's only scratched the surface of his potential."

The soft-spoken Goodson agreed with Samuel in that his game still has a long way to go.

"I still feel like I can improve a lot, my angles, my footwork, a lot of little things," he said.

Goodson, from Melbourne, Fla., saw action in eight games as a true freshman in 2006. He recorded 16 tackles and showed the Southeast coaching staff plenty of promise.

Goodson's production improved dramatically after moving into the starting lineup last year. He credited Casper's tutelage for a big part of his development.

"He was a great captain, a big part of our team, and he helped me a lot," Goodson said.

Even though Southeast lost its top defender in Casper, the Redhawks return eight defensive starters and Goodson said he envisions the unit improving considerably.

"I think we'll be pretty strong," Goodson said.

The rest of the OVC expects Goodson to be strong. He was one of three Southeast players named preseason all-conference in voting by the league's head coaches and sports information directors.

But Goodson said he doesn't focus on personal accomplishments. His primary goal is helping the Redhawks finally succeed as a group.

In 17 Division I-AA seasons, Southeast has produced two winning records, the last in 2002. Southeast has not won more than four games in a season since 2003.

Southeast has gone 7-15 overall and 3-12 in the OVC during Goodson's first two years in the program. That includes last season's 3-8 overall record and 1-6 OVC mark.

"I'd like to have a conference championship. That would be nice," Goodson said.

The Redhawks again are expected to struggle this year as they were picked last in the OVC preseason poll.

Goodson doesn't buy into that line of thinking.

"It kind of hurts, but it's a motivation," he said of the last-place prediction. "I think we'll surprise a lot of people."

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