Only days after Texas Longhorns senior wide receiver Marquise Goodwin managed a just 10th-place finish in the long jump at the Olympics, hitting the ground afterwards in clear distress, he returned to Austin a day early to join the Longhorns for practice on Thursday.
From the football perspective, the time Goodwin has always spent on track during the spring and summer has been seriously detrimental to his development on the football field. Not a judgment, just a reality. For other track athletes who only compete in national competitions, the seasons end earlier. Not so for someone who has excelled on the world stage before.
As a result, integration into the football season presents different obstacles each year:
It is a different transition every time. It is a different experience every year. I got something different going on every year with World Championships last year and the Olympics this year. It is different, but it is great to be back at football, great to see my teammates and coaches. I am just glad to be back out there.
Representing the Longhorns is an honor reserved for few, but representing the United States at the Olympics is an honor reserved for only the elite at their respective art. Goodwin had some perspective on it Thursday night:
There is is nothing like it. Words can't even explain how it is to represent your country, having the words USA written across your chest. It is more than just yourself; you are representing your country, representing what you stand for, representing your church, your family, your friends, your school. Just everything. All the people that didn't have the same opportunity that you had. To me it meant a lot to represent [with] USA across my chest.
Maybe it's because he's come from some difficult circumstances growing up with a mother who had to work odd hours and stretch funds, exacerbated by the fact his sister had, but Goodwin has remarkable perspective for his age. Worth repeating. Check it:
I feel like I could have executed it better. Obviously if I hadn't had a scratch I would've done a lot better. But it happens in the sport. It is not perfect all the time. Even some of the greatest have lost on that same stage or level. You just have to face those circumstances. They are cruel, but you have to move forward.
Could Goodwin have a more healthy take on the massive disappointment of not bringing home a medal that a good performance would have earned? Likely not.
The biggest help is the fact that the sport he is returning to is a sanctuary for him amid the emotional turbulence of accepting less than his best on the biggest stage:
Football is a huge stress reliever. The transition, it is just great to be able to come back and not have to worry about if I would’ve did this or that. My mind is totally on football now. I have other things to do.
Things to do like turning in a senior season that capitalizes on every bit of potential he has shown throughout the years, flashes despite his non-football offseasons and tough transitions upon his returns to the game. As long as he can get good service form his quarterback, it's a strong possibility.
The discussion surrounding Goodwin is whether he can become a solid third receiver for the 'Horns. Relatively low expectations given the upside that he provides. What is reasonable, though? Through the first half of the regular season, he was still trying to learn the offense after missing the spring and fall. Again, Goodwin was trying to learn a new offense completely from scratch.
He's not advanced from that point, really, but it's still a much better point than he was at last year.
The turning point probably came against Kansas, in a game that Texas dominated in virtually every facet except avoiding injuries, which didn't go quite so well. Prior to that point, Goodwin had just six catches for 38 yards and four carries for 37 yards, including a 3-for-33 effort in the jet sweep game against UCLA that started to show evidence of his ability there.
Following those first six games, the production from the then-junior wideout didn't exactly skyrocket, but it got noticeably and significantly better.
Working the edges on the jet sweep, Goodwin racked up 18 carries for 187 yards -- just over 10 yards per carry -- over the last six games on the ground, building on that potential that he showed against UCLA in that aspect of the gameplan.
In the passing game, the numbers weren't impressive for Goodwin against Kansas, when things started to click, but Harsin let Goodwin get it going in the running game, with five carries for 52 yards. By the end of the season, Goodwin had proven himself much more reliable than senior DJ Monroe on the same plays -- Goodwin finished with four runs of 20+ yards and 10 runs of 10 or more yards, with nine of his 22 efforts going for a first down.
By comparison, Monroe managed only three over 20 and eight over 10, despite carrying the ball more than twice as often. Overall, Goodwin averaged more than three yards per carry more than the long-time jet sweep specialist. Ahem, one-trick pony.
The senior from Angleton has mostly shown himself as a straight-line runner, while Goodwin has shown a little shake, even though he still seems as if he's fighting himself at times in the open field. Want some evidence? Let's start breaking down a highlight film for Goodwin from YouTube. BREAKING: Highlight films are revealing, if not the only and ultimate answer to a player's worth.
Running ability -- Play 1 (vs. Wyoming, 2010): Goodwin takes the handoff on the jet sweep, breaks a tackle from the pursuing cornerback who followed him behind the formation (Dallas Kimball product Marcell Gipson, a really good college player who had to ditch his only NFL opportunity so far to deal with the death of his grandmother), breaks another tackle because a wide receiver (looks like John Chiles) totally whiffs on a block, sheds a linebacker in the open field who tries to wrap him up, then takes on a senior free safety who struggles to bring him down, really only managing the finish when none of than Gipson comes back in for the final lick on a wrapped-up Goodwin. Whew.
Running ability -- Play 2 (vs. Cal in 2011, at 1:50 mark): Goodwin takes the jet sweep left, but two Cal defenders have contain, so he gets vertical on a dime, gets 10 yards downfield from the line of scrimmage and finds a crease to the edge, spins on a tackle attempt and barely breaks stride before having the final defensive back deny him the touchdown with a strong angle. Wow.
Can Goodwin produce at that level over a whole season in the running game? There are so many more options with Goodwin than with Monroe to keep the defense playing at least a little bit honest that seven or eight yards per carry isn't crazy, right? He was over 10 in the last seven games. He picked up 10 or more yards on 45% of his carries, 20+ yards on 18% of his carries -- yeah, nearly one in five.
Call him a more versatile DJ Monroe.
Since Goodwin is actually a true wide receiver, there's plenty to talk about with him at that position as well.
In the last six games, Goodwin had 27 catches for 487 yards and the two touchdowns that he scored against Baylor and Cal, the former going for 80 yards off the hand of Case McCoy and the latter from David Ash for 47 yards.
During that time, four of his catches went for 25 yards or more (15%), eight went for 10 or more (30%).
It could have been even better. Even though Ash hit Goodwin right in stride on the go route that Goodwin secured with some sick lateral quickness to get a basically free release inside against Cal for 37 yards (1:20 mark) and a touchdown, Goodwin's only score of the season, the quarterback left a play on the field with his receiver in that game. Let's take a look:
Missed play 1 (vs. Cal in 2011, 1:05 mark): Ash throws a deep back-shoulder pass to Goodwin along the sideline and it appears that Goodwin gets both feet in bounds. Alas, he's flagged for illegal touching, as he had been pushed out of bounds by the Golden Bear defensive back. So close, and a play that Ash deserves credit for because he put the ball in the right place to let his receiver make the play.
Missed play 2 (vs. Cal in 2011, 1:40 mark): One of the plays that Ash would probably like back, one that a lot of Texas fans probably remember as a sign that his downfield accuracy wasn't totally on point, even by the Holiday Bowl. A possibly monumental play. 3rd and 19, Harsin takes a bit of a risk by letting Ash look vertical from his own endzone. Goodwin streaks downfield with five yards on his defender as the camera cuts wide to the play from the endzone look, but Ash leaves the ball about five yards short, causing Goodwin to stop and adjust for the football, with the recovering defender helping make sure that Goodwin's first foot down lands just out of bounds. So close to a game-breaking 98-yard touchdown pass. A little more trust from Ash in the speed of his receiver the difference. So close.
Prediction: Ash will hit those plays more often when available in 2012 -- that's just natural development. Reps, and all.
Projected out over a regular season, the way that Goodwin finished 2011 would equal out to about 1,000 yards from rushing and receiving in 2012 (about a 66.6/33.3 split), which doesn't even include the two big plays that could have happened in the Cal game had Goodwin and Ash been on the same page completely -- there's upside left, even with that prediction, which would have led Texas in receiving last year.
Keep those hypotheticals out and the verdict is still extremely positive. Add 'em, start feeling some serious offensive growth for the 'Horns.
So Texas fans, high on Marquise Goodwin right now after reading this, what do y'all predict for him this year? That 660 yards receiving and 347 yards rushing with a couple touchdowns could be conservative, right? Anyone else see Goodwin scoring well more than one touchdown this year? Four or five, even?
Goodwin has other things to do besides track. Like turn in a big-time senior season in football.