It's All Goode
It's a consensus.
As well as Cal outside linebacker Cameron Goode is playing this season, we should be expecting more.
"I think Cam has another gear," fellow Cal outside linebacker Braxten Croteau said.
"I don't even think that's his best. He has another gear," safety Josh Drayden said.
"As well as he's played, there's another level for him," Cal co-defensive coordinator and outside linebackers coach Tim DeRuyter said.
The idea that Goode can still play substantially better than he has this season should be troublesome for opposing offenses. Goode ranks third nationally in tackles for loss per game – he has eight overall, including three sacks.
Goode is coming off arguably the best game of his career – 3.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, a fumble recovery and a pass breakup during the Bears' 21-17 victory over then No. 23/21/20 Oregon at California Memorial Stadium on Saturday.
"Cam is obviously an insane player," Croteau said. "I'm just thankful that's the guy across from me. It makes my job a lot easier."
From the moment he first set foot on the field as a starter in his first game as a redshirt freshman in 2017, Goode has demonstrated a special skill set. He started the first nine games that season, posting 46 tackles, including 5.5 for loss. But an injury forced him out of the final three games that year.
He came back healthy to begin 2018, and once again made an impact immediately by returning an interception 38 yards for a touchdown in the Bears' 24-17 season-opening win over North Carolina. But Goode got injured once again in that game, and this time it required surgery. His season was over.
"That was really frustrating," Goode said. "That was definitely one of the lowest points in my career."
Healthy once again, Goode was back in the starting lineup to begin last season and missed just one game due to injury. He was named honorable mention All-Pac-12 after finishing third in the Pac-12 with 9.5 sacks.
"The first few games (last season) I was definitely thinking about staying healthy and getting that confidence back," Goode said. "After that, I was feeling really good, like I was just improving every week. Just getting more experience out there really helped me since I had missed so much time being hurt."
Goode's 2019 story got lost a little amid the much-deserved focus on inside linebacker Evan Weaver's record-breaking season, not to mention the emergence of his sidekick, Kuony Deng. But in addition to the 9.5 sacks, Goode recorded 14.0 tackles for loss and 57 stops overall.
"Certainly, when (Weaver) wouldn't let anybody else tackle the ball because he was always there first, it tends to take some numbers away from guys," DeRuyter said. "But you're just worried about doing your job, and when you have the opportunity to make plays like he did Saturday against Oregon, you make them."
Goode's performance this season is also a reminder of what the Bears have missed when he wasn't able to play. Even this year when fully healthy, his chances to showcase his skills have been shortened by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It seems that for whatever reason, there's a little bit of a curse there," DeRuyter said. "He just can't get through a normal season. Whatever we can get out of him we are obviously happy to have."
And it's a good thing Goode is playing at his current level because his performance is vital to the overall play of the defense.
"I told him he needs to be an all-conference first-team player this season," DeRuyter said. "That's my expectation for him. I still thought last year was an average year for Cam Goode. I think he has a really high ceiling and he's starting to approach it this year."
"I think he's playing the best football of his career," Cal head coach Justin Wilcox said.