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Godwin welcomes move from safety to 'striker'

Senior Nate Godwin (36) is transitioning from strong safety to "striker" in USF's 4-2-5 defense this spring.

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

Senior Nate Godwin (36) is transitioning from strong safety to "striker" in USF's 4-2-5 defense this spring.

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This time last year, then-Bulls defensive coordinator Tom Allen had to coax, cajole and convince Jamie Byrd before the veteran agreed to move from his conventional safety spot to "husky" in USF's new 4-2-5 scheme.

In the wake of Byrd's sparkling senior year (88 tackles, five sacks, three interceptions), finding a replacement has required far less arm-twisting. Nine days into spring camp, senior Nate Godwin has stepped into Byrd's position -- re-named "striker" -- with far more willingness, and a bit more weight.

"I think it's a very important position for the defense," said Godwin, a 205-pound converted strong safety who brings roughly 20 more pounds to the spot than Byrd.

"Even though if I mess up, I want to mess up full-speed and I want to take coaching and try to do it the best I can. I also watched film on Byrd from last year, to see the things that he did to make plays."

A Freedom High alumnus whose 184 career tackles lead all USF returners, Godwin will be hard-pressed to match the sheer physicality of Byrd, a ruthless hitter who routinely laid out his diminutive body to make a play. But he's a bit faster, and his larger frame will be better suited for blitzes.

"I think he brings something unique to that position," Coach Willie Taggart said. "He's a little bigger than what we had before there, which can help us in the run game. But I like the fact that Nate can also cover, and again, that helps when you have a guy that can do both at that striker position." 

Godwin continues being pushed by sophomored Khalid McGee, Byrd's backup in 2015, but has taken a majority of first-team reps so far this spring. At this point, the learning curve remains generous, primarily because new safeties coach John Jancek is doing some learning of his own on the 4-2-5.

"I'll say this, that's a very important position," said Jancek, who arrived in February after three seasons as Tennessee's defensive coordinator. "He's got to really be a smart player, and...he's got to have the ability to cover and take that No. 2 receiver away, and then he's got to be physical as well."

SOLID AT CENTER: The fact new first-team C Michael Galati has remained inconspicuous so far in camp might attest to how solidly he has performed this spring. QB Quinton Flowers said after Saturday's scrimmage, when Galati had no bad snaps, that the redshirt sophomore has had only three or four faulty exchanges in the entire camp.

"He's having a really good spring," said Taggart, like Galati a Bradenton Manatee alumnus.

"The more reps he gets the better it's gonna be for him. He's having some little mistakes that we can't have that he's got to get corrected with moving the ball before we go, but other than that he's doing a really good job for us."

Redshirt freshman Brooks Larkin, who also played at Manatee, currently is backing up Galati.

ODDS AND ENDS: USF's top two tight ends, Mitchell Wilcox and Kano Dillon, were limited in Monday's practice after sustaining minor upper-body injuries Saturday. ... Taggart's visit to Baylor earlier this month evidently has resulted in several offensive wrinkles. "Their splits are different, the routes are different," Godwin said Monday. "They're running different things and (Flowers) is making great reads." ... The Bulls will practice Saturday at Pinellas Park High. Tentative starting time is 11.

AUDIBLE: "It's a good offense, so learning the defense and going along with a great offense, we've got to be more motivated to compete. We've got to realize that they're gonna get plays, and when they get plays we can't hang our heads. We've got to realize we've got a good offense, so that's a big thing." -- Godwin on Saturday's scrimmage, when Flowers had three long TD passes and led a 96-yard scoring drive.

[Last modified: Monday, April 4, 2016 4:36pm]

    

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