I'm excited about the commitment of John Goodman. John fits perfectly into the style of receiver I prefer, and the style of receiver that I feel perfectly suits the Notre Dame offense. As with Duval Kamara, the early commitment Goodman gave the Fighting Irish will likely prevent him from moving up the rankings or creating buzz among fans and scouting services. No matter whom Notre Dame signs at wide receiver, John Goodman isn't going to take a back seat to anyone.
I've seen John listen at 6-3, 6-4, and 6-5. He measured in at the San Antonio combine at 6-3 and change. Either way he has very good height and length. He has long arms and long legs, both of which are major plusses at the wide receiver position. He is very similar physically to both Michael Floyd and Brice Butler. He isn't quite as big as Michael, but is bigger than Brice. Each of these players has differences in their play but resemble each other physically.
The first area where I would like to see Goodman improve is with his stance. From what I can tell watching the wide receivers week after week, coach Ianello doesn't really emphasize great stance at the line of scrimmage. The Notre Dame wide receivers haven't shown very good technique here. So I doubt John's stance causes them any concern. But for me it's an area where he has plenty of room for growth. He is very tall in his stance, which causes him to adjust at the snap to get in position to get downfield with good speed. When he doesn't adjust he comes off slow. Goodman has the athletic ability to be a very good route runner, but needs quite a bit of work on his technique. He needs to be much sharper on his cuts. Whether it be a stop type route such as a hitch or comeback, or whether it be a moving cut such as a slant or post he isn't crisp on his cuts.
He also needs to incorporate some upper body fakes into his route running. Right now he is bigger and faster than his competition, but as he transitions to the college game he won't be able to out-skill players every week. John tends to just drift into his routes then just runs by people. He is able to get open underneath because his opponents play so far off of him fearing his deep speed. As I have said before, what I look for when watching film isn't a guy who is a great route runner at that time, but rather a guy who has the physical tools to be a good route runner. I'm encouraged that he has every physical tool necessary to be an outstanding route runner.
You could be the greatest athlete in the world, be the fastest guy on the field, and leap small buildings in a single bound, but if you can't catch the football you aren't going to be very successful. As Notre Dame fans we aren't going to have to worry about whether or not John Goodman is going to be consistently catching the football at Notre Dame. Technique and concentration (focus) are the two big keys to catching the football. John shows great focus when the ball is in the air. I tell my players when the ball is in the air you can't see anything else. Your entire focus needs to be on the football. Goodman has great focus when the ball is in the air. He is able to adjust to an under-thrown ball, catch balls off the tip, and goes to the football. One thing to look for while watching film is to see how a player reacts to the football in the air. Does he go to the football, drift away from the football, does he begin running a bit before he makes the catch, and how well does he adjusts to bad throws. These are keys that can show whether a guy has good focus or not. In John Goodman I see a guy who not only adjusts to bad throws but who attacks the football while it's in flight. I like how he snatches the ball smoothly and quickly out of the air and away from his body.
I thought Maurice Stovall and Jeff Samardzija were vastly underrated as catch-and-run guys. There were many times the last couple of seasons where each of these players turned the quick throws, hitches, or slants into big plays. Goodman has tremendous ability as well as a catch-and-run player in the mold of Stovall and Samardzija. His ability to catch the ball so well helps him a lot. After making the catch he does a great job of squaring up and exploding down field. I used a phrase with my receivers and it was "know where the defense isn't." What I meant and taught was as you run your route and make the catch, know where the defense is coming from and run where they aren't. To be honest, most of this is a natural ability to feel the defenders and react to them. This is something John appears to be quite natural at. He is good at finding the creases in the defense and exploding through them.
For a guy with a 32 inch vertical jump, Goodman doesn't do a great job of going up for the football. He tends to drift down field and doesn't explode or elevate up to the ball. This is a technique thing that can be developed with coaching, work, and repetition. Coach Ianello does a good job coaching up the Notre Dame wide receivers to go up for the football, so I feel John will develop this trait in time. Protecting the football is at the top of any coach's priority list so Goodman will need to keep the ball in tighter and do a better job of protecting the football. All too often he allows the football to get away from his body as he maneuvers in and out of traffic making plays. This will be worked out of him on the first day he arrives on campus at Notre Dame. One area where he can improve his catch-and-run ability is by improving how he uses his stiff arm. Part of it is technique and the other aspect of improving here is by being more physical with his stiff arm. John will have to get more physical as a football player. He is never going to be as physical as Duval Kamara, but he will need to know when to step it up a bit. I saw no film of John blocking so I can't speak on how well he blocks or what he needs to improve on here.
Due to the fact he is relatively tall, white, from Indiana, and heading to Notre Dame, the comparisons to Jeff Samardzija are inevitable. John isn't as big as Samardzija, but does appear to be faster than Jeff. Where they are very similar is how smooth each player is. One of the premier traits that turned Jeff into an All-American wide receiver was the fact he was a great athlete and was extremely smooth. John compares quite favorably to Jeff as an athlete. John also shows great balance and very quick feet. He is long strider, so he'll actually be faster than he appears on film or television. He has a second gear, which he uses to run away from defenders and catch up to deep balls that initially appear to be thrown to far. His ability to quickly change direction with little wasted movement allows him to turn runs and short throws into long gains. What also will help is the fact John appears to have wonderful vision. There are plays on film where he adjusts and makes a guy miss who is actually coming from a backwards angle at him. This isn't something you can teach, it is a trait a guy either has or he doesn't.
There are several ways for college wide receivers to be big-play guys. Some do it with great speed, some do it with great size, some do it with great technique as route runners, some do it with great agility as route runners, and some do it with the ability to turn short passes and runs into big gains. John Goodman combines a little bit of each of these traits. He isn't huge, and isn't a burner, but he still possesses very good length as well as good speed. His strengths will be using his athleticism to gain separation as a route runner and to turn short throws and runs into big gains. I believe John has the potential to be an impact player at Notre Dame. It will be interesting to see how much he develops physically between now and the time he gets to campus as a freshman. He has the physical tools to excel as a college football player. What will be the determining factor is how physical John is or is willing to be. This, to me, will decide whether he is a solid player at Notre Dame or becomes and outstanding player at Notre Dame.
In the Film Room: John Goodman
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