Stan Szeto - USA Today Sports
By an unofficial count, eight redshirt freshman have played this season so far after sitting out. Four of those have taken on starting roles, in Jake Curhan, Valentino Daltoso, Cameron Goode, and Camryn Bynum. Two of them, Curhan and Goode, earned payer of the game honors on their respective sides of the ball (though Bynum made some clutch pass breakups in the ending sequence). Curhan and Goode got recognized for their play on Saturday during team meetings (Dylan Klumph was special teams player of the game, golf swing and all)
"It was funny," Curhan said of being named offensive player of the game, "some of us get in the meeting room early just to be safe, and (Wilcox) came up to me, 'how do you phonetically say your last name, is it like curran or cur-han,' I was like 'well it's cur-han.' He was like, 'do you really care?' I was like, 'not really.' So I was like, that's an interesting question, not really sure why he asked me that, then a couple minutes into the meeting, he was announcing it, and sure enough, it was really awesome."
Goode got his recognition due to his pick six, a play Justin Wilcox noted as one of the most important plays of the Ole Miss game.
"It’s just like you draw it up," Wilcox said,"He’s lined up as a rusher, we drop him, bring the other backers, and he drops into the window. That ball was coming with some heat on it, and he caught it, and then once he caught it, he secured it, Ashtyn Davis made a great, him and Looney both got big blocks, and then Cam, his intent was to score. It was a really phenomenal effort on his part, so it’s a huge play. He was defensive player of the game. A lot of guys made big plays but that one was arguably the biggest play in the game."
"I watched the tape (of the pick six) a few times," Goode said. "What I saw mostly was my blocking from my teammates. They definitely cleared it up for me, and I just ran and I was trying to get into the endzone."
Goode's play has caused plenty of social media reaction, partially due to ESPN color commentator Brock Huard saying "Champions love adversity, this is your moment Shea" about ten seconds before the interception, as well as getting it set to Celene Dion's 'My Heart Will Go On,' as plays across multiple sports have been in the past year or so.
There's a point hidden in the success of Curhan and Goode. Neither played a year ago, and they're not playing in the system that they learned a year ago. Goode didn't play a year ago despite a linebacker group that was lacking in depth. Curhan didn't play a year ago due to a four year starter being in front of him. Now they're excelling under new coaches, thriving even.
Goode and his performance may be emblematic of the changes Justin Wilcox has put in place, with largely Sonny Dykes' commits. 24 out of the 26 scholarship defensive players who played snaps either on defense or special teams committed under Dykes and staff (Darius Allensworth committed during the Tedford regime and Elijah Hicks committed between head coaches). It's the value of good coaching and putting guys in a place to succeed. Goode is probably the biggest example of this so far, as Tim DeRuyter has noted before that Goode is exactly the type of player they want manning his position, both size (could use more weight) and skillset wise.
Curhan was chosen as the offensive player of the game for what Wilcox noted as his "body of work," as the right tackle from Larkspur got the first game ball of his football career. He also modeled Cal's new cleats, special for the Joe Roth Memorial game Saturday against USC.
"These are probably the coolest cleats I've worn as an offensive lineman," Curhan noted.
— Cal Rivals (@CalRivals) September 19, 2017
There's another week of practice for the redshirt freshmen, as they head into a tough game against an undefeated USC squad, as both Curhan and Goode somewhat sheepishly noted they hadn't seen too much of yet, but much like this Cal team, they're ahead of schedule in their development, and Curhan noted that the team got a monster compliment from an Ole Miss player.
"He said, you guys play really hard," Curhan remembered, "I mean, there were some expletives in there, but that's a nice paraphrase....I think it's the best compliment we can get as a team and the best identity we can establish going forward."