Gooden is Back

Many Hurricanes fans forget that junior linebacker Tavares Gooden started at strongside linebacker in the 2005 season opener at Florida State. Gooden's season was cut short by a shoulder injury and he received a medical redshirt.

Tavares Gooden returns to a linebacking unit that returns four players that have started at least one game in their career and also has talented young players like Willie Williams, Darryl Sharpton and Spencer Adkins battling for playing time. Gooden was finally able to test the shoulder out Friday because it was the first practice in pads.

How was the first practice in pads today?

"It was like a dream going out there the first time I have been back in a year. I had some fun today just hitting people and getting a feel for my shoulder and seeing that everything is ok. It was the first time I have put on pads since my shoulder injury. I took my shoulder brace off and was out there full speed flying around. It felt great today."

Who was looking good out there in pads today?

"Our D-Line is nasty. They are getting up-field making big plays; Baraka Kareem, Teraz, they are all allowing us linebackers to be free. You got guys like Willie Williams, a great athlete, and Beason coming down and hitting fullbacks in the mouth. Even the secondary is looking great today. We got some big cornerbacks like Randy Phillips who shine when they wear pads because you get to put hands on people."

With so many of the linebackers having game experience, how will all of you guys be able to get on the field?

"Any one of the linebackers could start and can play anywhere. The fact of the matter is that everybody is going to get there time to play. It is just about preparing yourself in practice for when that day comes that you will play."

How are the young linebackers progressing?

"You got Darryl Sharpton, he is looking good and is going to play this year, Spencer is a freak athlete, he is going to play and James Bryant is improving and looking well."

What is the biggest difference this spring with Coach Shannon now coaching the linebackers?

"The big difference is that Coach Shannon is also the defensive coordinator. If there is a problem, he is going to let us know right then. It is like playing for your dad. It puts a little bit of pressure on you, but at the same time he is telling you to have fun. When he is coaching us we are out there going 110 MPH for him to show him that we can get in the game."

What does Coach Shannon want you to improve this spring?

"For me I basically just need to get back into the flow of things. He wants me to play fearless and not worry about my shoulder. My shoulder is still a little stiff, but other than that I feel fine."

What weight do you want to be at for the beginning of the season?

"Actually when I was recovering from my surgery, I gained 20-pounds and weighed 242-pounds. The weight is not a big deal, I can run with it. When I began to workout with Swassey, I was out of shape, but now I am fun and can run around fine. I am 238-pounds right now and feel good. I do not think I am going to be able to lose the weight because it is all muscle. I will probably be somewhere between 238-pounds and 245-pounds."

David Lake is a Staff Writer and can be contacted by emailing him at

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