Gooch Looks Good at Kat

BYU spring football practice has not come with out a few surprising performances that have led to unexpected shuffles on the depth charts. Among those surprises is the young man who currently occupies one of the starting Katback spots, Quinn Gooch.

After returning home from his LDS-mission, Quinn Gooch was looking to secure a spot on BYU's two-deep roster. At that time Aaron Francisco was a two-year starter, so Gooch hoped to make an impact as his backup. It appeared Gooch would turn some heads in 2003, but his season ended abruptly when he tore his ACL.

Since then Gooch has struggled to regain his form, but based on his performance this spring, his struggles appear to be over. He has opened head coach Bronco Mendenhall's eyes considerably.

"Quinn has been a pleasant surprise for us this spring," Mendenhall said. "He's had a fantastic spring."

Gooch agreed. "I feel great," he said. "I'm 100% right now and I feel that I was 100% last season. I'm just getting more comfortable with the system and I feel that I'm playing better as a result."

Gooch has been seeing exclusive reps with the first-team, although not many pre-spring prognostications had him slated for first-string Katback. This spring he is playing alongside Spencer White who started last year.

"I'm confident in my abilities," Gooch said. "I've always felt that if I'm healthy and if I give it my all that I can play with and compete with anyone. Everyone wants to start and fortunately that's where I'm at right now and I just have to hold on now while competing to establish myself at the Kat position. If I start, then fine. I'm just going to do everything necessary to play my best and go from there."

Coach Mendenhall said that Gooch has gone from a backup who he wasn't sure how he would help the team to a player that has earned his respect. Gooch has progressed from a player with an undetermined role to a player who has impressed Mendenhall from day one of spring practice. The coach has also been pleased with the way he has been both playing and competing.

"I've always felt that I had a place on this team and that I could really help the defense," said Gooch. "Fortunately Coach Mendenhall has given me a shot and I aim to take full advantage of it."

While Gooch and Spencer White are manning the Katback positions on the first team, Dustin Gabriel is holding steady as the primary Cougarback in Mendenhall's 3-3-5 system.

"Dustin has an enormous amount of potential," Gooch said. "I think he's going to be as good as what they've had around here. Spencer played all of last year and he's our leader back there – the guy we look to help us out and tell us where we need to go. We're a young group, but we're very able."

Gooch's primary competition has been provided by converted linebacker KC Bills. Gooch gave way to Bills early on, but he's now held him off and is getting almost exclusive reps with the 1s thus far in spring camp.

"KC is going to be great," he said. "I hope his shoulder is alright. I'm competing against him and I want to beat him, but you root for everybody. He's a tremendous competitor who will help our defense no matter where he's at or where he plays. He pushes me considerably."

Gooch is fully aware of Mendenhall's system and recognizes that a constant rotation among defensive backs and the other positions is necessary to keep them fresh and provide varying looks to the opposing offenses.

"You want to start, but we fully recognize that we're all going to play regardless if we start or not," " Gooch said. "You need a constant rotation at safety and we have the guys to do that. Hopefully we have a bunch of guys that can come in and we won't lose anything when they do. Whether it's KC or me, Spencer, David Tafuna, Dustin or whomever, it's important that we don't miss a beat."

Gooch's brother is also on the team. David is currently battling for a slot in the regular wide receiver rotation. David is a player who has been dubbed "Crazy Legs" by his teammates, but Quinn insists that he didn't come up with the nickname, nor does he know why he's dubbed such.

"I really don't know why they call him that," he said with a laugh. "I didn't make it up, I think it was John Beck, but it stuck. I love playing against him and I like to hit him hard when I get the chance just because he's my brother and you like to get the better of him. It's really a lot of fun."

Gooch is very optimistic about the attitude and overall prospects of the Cougar football team for the coming season.

"We have a great bunch of guys," Gooch commented. "The attitude and the work ethic have never been better. We're just more together this spring and I know that is going to help us this coming year."

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