New Look, Same Tenacity for Travis Goethel

From a distance, you may have a hard time recognizing Travis Goethel. Gone is his trademark surfer dude long blond hair, as he decided to adjust to scorching Arizona summer heat and support a buzz cut. But just watch him for few plays on the field and you'll recognize all over again the ferocious hitting coupled with impressive athleticism that was the linebacker's trademark his freshman year.

We caught up with the 6-3 229 sophomore Travis Goethel after Thursday's night practice, the first session the maroon and gold had back in the valley following their weeklong stay at Camp Tontozona. "I like camp, but it's always nice to come back and sleep in your own bed," he said. "Camp was better this year, because I knew what I was getting into. Last year, I didn't have a blanket or anything like that. This year was much more comfortable."

This time last year, Goethel was anything but a wide-eyed freshman. He was turning heads during fall camp, and much like true freshman wide receiver Kerry Taylor this year, it was crystal clear early on that he will avoid the redshirt tag. He played in all 13 games in 2006, starting in four, and earned Pac-10 freshman honors, as well as honorable mention Freshman All-American by the Sporting News.

He probably had good reason to be apprehensive about the change at coaching guard, as he tried to prove himself all over again for the new staff. Yet, the ever pragmatic Goethel just rolled with the punches. "I just felt that I had to go out there and play," he said. "I didn't do too well in the spring, didn't feel focused enough…I knew I had to play better in the summer."

Apparently, Goethel was too hard on himself. Some of his struggles could be attributed to the fact that that he went from playing exclusively at WILL (weak-side linebacker) his freshman year, to shuttling back and forth between that role and the SAM (strong-side linebacker) spot. At the end of spring he was named the starter at SAM, a role he has virtual stronghold on during fall camp.

"It wasn't too hard switching back and forth," he claimed. "At WILL you're off the line more and SAM you up front manning the tight end, up on the line and being more physical, which I like better."

Goethel also enjoys the challenge of lining up against tight end Brent Miller, who he believes is ever bit the skillful blocker Zach Miller was last year. "He's good, strong and physical, but I get him once in a while," he said laughing. "There's no difference between the way him and Zach play. I guess it's because they're brothers (smile)."

Head Coach Dennis Erickson stated that the linebackers group is the unit that surprised him the most with their performance in the fall, and Goethel contends that the reason for the high performance of his group is the depth at this position. "we have a lot of competition at linebacker and it keeps us pushing each other," he said. "That forces all of us to play better."

Goethel realizes that the linebackers, let alone the rest of the defense, better be prepared for Friday's scrimmage where the offense will undoubtedly come out on fire trying to have a much better showing than they had at Camp T's scrimmage last Saturday. "Yeah, they'll probably come out and talk trash to us," Goethel agreed, "but we'll be ready for them and play as hard as we can…as a defense we're doing pretty good right now, but we're not doing as well as we should right now. We're just gonna keep on working hard everyday and get better as a unit."

Success at the college football level may have come fast for the sophomore. Granted, he was recruited with the notion that he's expected to contribute right away. His physical skills and character allowed that to happen. As evident by the coaches' words, there's still a buzz surrounding Travis Goethel, who in turn recognizes the level of enthusiasm associated with this staff.

"With a new coach you'll always have more excitement, more fans coming around, a lot of new fans…" said Goethel, "I really feel good going into this season, and I think all the players do too. Everyone is real focused for this season."

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