By Ed McGranahan.
Ideally Malliciah Goodman would be where Andre Branch was a year ago or Da’Quan Bowers before him. On the doorstep of season that makes offensive tackles sweat and leaves quarterbacks staring at the ceiling the night before a game with Clemson.
Goodman very much looks the part of the dominant pass-rushing defensive end, long and tall and athletic with big hands – Lord those hands – and smart. He understands his role and works at it.
His coaches know they can count on him. His teammates respect him.
Goodman, a senior from West Florence High School, paid his dues in full from the moment he joined the Clemson program in 2009, playing in every game that year. Midway through his first season, defensive coordinator Kevin Steele confessed that at times he forgot Goodman was a freshman.
Now he’s the player on whom Clemson coaches pin their hopes, the big dog with a bunch of pups. Goodman is the only senior. There are no juniors. Last season he played twice as many snaps than the six other returning defensive linemen combined. Only one of them has started a game at Clemson.
Goodman is critical to Clemson’s ability to generate an effective pass rush this season, but he’s invaluable in terms of his leadership, shepherding this group of talented young defensive lineman.
“He’s got to take it to another level,” said Coach Dabo Swinney. “He has been a good player. He has been a productive player but he hasn’t been a great player yet and neither had Branch and neither had Da’Quan quite frankly, so that’s the challenge to Malliciah.”
Embracing the leadership role doesn’t come easily for him. Goodman is soft spoken and sincere with large expressive eyes. He would prefer to lead by example, so he’ll need to step outside his comfort zone.
“We’re the voice of the team. Everybody wants to hear what the seniors have to say, so we’re going be there, to lead by example and lead these guys along,” he said.
His position coach, Marion Hobby, has seen Goodman mature as a leader since last season.
“I saw a big improvement in him, he will never be the hoorah cheerleader guy, but he demands respect from the young guys. When he talks they listen, you can see this in the meeting room, they know to listen when he talks, because he doesn’t do it a lot.
“I think he is in the perfect position right now.”
Goodman believes he’s capable of greatness. Occasionally, he said, people are surprised by him on the field.
“You just have to let yourself go,” he said. “Don’t hold back, let out all that aggression, everything.”
Last week at the ACC Kickoff, teammate Dalton Freeman wore the ring presented to members of last year’s conference championship team. Goodman left his at home because it was a reminder of the past but going forward it’s his time.
“I’m ready for it,” he said. “I know I’m going to go out and do the best of my ability. I’m going to execute the opportunities I have.
“I have to keep playing at that high level that I know I’m capable of, day in and day out week by week, that quality performance that great performance consistently will be the difference.”