Gooden: ‘This is going to be our year"

Senior linebacker Tavares Gooden has seen the highs and lows at the University of Miami. As a freshman in 2003, he saw considerable playing time on one of the best defenses in the country and was part of a BCS team.

After a solid 2004 season, he had a season ending shoulder injury in 2005 which continued to nag him a bit in 2006. This spring, he'll have a chance to compete to regain his starting linebacker spot.

"I was just anxious to get out here and practice," he said of the offseason. "It's a whole new system this year and everyone is disappointed in last season. Everybody is ready because we feel like this is going to be our year and this is going to be the team."

Gooden also claims to be fully recovered from that shoulder injury. "I'm back, I'm fine," he said. "Last year, the training room worked their best and did what they could and they did a good job, so I have to give them shout-outs."

So how was practice according to Gooden?

"There was a lot of flying around and intensity. It was great; everyone was flying around to the ball. Having fun, that was the main thing, having fun."

Gooden insisted that practices will still be fun despite the regime change at head coach, and that their first practice of the spring was very similar defensively.

"There was really no difference. We're ready. Coach Shannon's our guy, he's our leader. We're doing the same things on defense we did last year. There was a quick tempo. Coach Walton, he's doing the same thing that Shannon did last year. He's getting everybody ready. Coach Walton is the man"

Gooden and the defense lined up for new defensive coordinator Tim Walton, who was formerly the defensive backs coach. Additionally, he and the rest of the linebackers will have a new linebackers coach, Micheal Barrow. Barrow played the role of teacher in the first practice.

"I love Coach Barrow. I love how he's willing to work with me and he's showing me the things that I've done wrong. Showing me how I can help the team. But he's teaching all of us, the older guys and the younger guys. Sometimes last year Coach Shannon got a little busy because he had to control the whole defense. I think that bringing Coach Barrow is going to work out well for the young guys and the older guys."

Gooden is projected to line up at the strong side linebacker spot, but during the first practice, linebackers played all three positions. There was no depth chart in practice either, something which Coach Shannon had stressed earlier in the week during his press conference.

"We rotated the Ones today," Gooden said when asked about who was on the first team.

"It was mainly me, Glenn Cook, Colin McCarthy, Darryl Sharpton, and Romeo Davis getting the most reps. I played mainly strong side but everyone played all three positions. All of us at linebacker feel that the more positions we know, the better we can help out the team. We had alot of injuries last year and it hurt us. I started off at SAM, but then everyone rotates around."

As a senior, Gooden will be looked to for leadership. One of the more vocal and energetic players on the ‘Canes roster, he promised to keep the energy up in 2006.

"We're a little older and a little more mature this year. Usually you hear the coaches yelling when things are not going well. We've picked things up though and usually the only voices you need to hear are ours."

"I'm just going to feed off my teammates. It's not about me, it's about my teammates. My guys are out there and they are jumping around, getting me pumped up. I love it when I see the defensive line getting hyped up. I love their intensity. Guys on the defensive backs also come at me and give me high fives. We're going to have tons of energy."

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