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Godwin looks to fill Byrd’s shoes as striker

Senior striker Nate Godwin is the lone senior in USF's secondary. He leads all returners with 184 career tackles. ORACLE FILE PHOTO/ADAM MATHIEU

It didn’t take long for USF to find a replacement for former husky Jamie Byrd, who is now pursuing a shot in the NFL.

Two weeks into spring camp, newly appointed coordinator Raymond Woodie has selected senior strong safety Nate Godwin to take the reins. Godwin has a team-high 184 career tackles and is ready to fill Byrd’s shoes.

“I think it's a very important position for the defense,” Godwin told reporters after Monday morning’s practice. “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.”

The newly nicknamed “striker” position, created under former defensive coordinator Tom Allen’s 4-2-5 scheme, gave Byrd room to roam and the 5-foot-11, 185-pound safety thrived with 88 tackles, five sacks and three interceptions.

The striker position is a hybrid safety position that allows Godwin to play closer to the line of scrimmage and be more involved in the run game.

Coach Willie Taggart sees certain qualities in Godwin that make him a fine suitor for the position.

“I think he brings something unique to that position,” Taggart said of the 205-pound safety. “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 will lead an experienced group of defensive backs. USF returned four of five starters in the secondary, a unit that helped the Bulls rank 14th in the nation with 17 interceptions – 10 were from the secondary.

Godwin and company will be coached by John Jancek, who spent the past three seasons as Tennessee’s defensive coordinator and also made stops at Georgia and Cincinnati.

“He's been in the SEC and he’s been around football for a long time. He knows a lot of stuff,” Godwin said.

Despite his young tenure with USF, Jancek puts a priority on Godwin’s new position and the physicality that the position demands.

“I'll say this, that's a very important position,” said Jancek. “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.”

As the leader of the secondary entering his senior year, Godwin said he embraces a larger leadership role as the lone senior in the defensive backfield.

“It being my senior year, I want to try to lead the defense as much as I can,” he said. “Coach put me in a position like that and it motivates me to come out to practice and compete.”