Jeron Gouveia-Winslow hasn’t had the best of times at Virginia Tech. A disappointing 2010 campaign for the Stone Bridge High product forced him to fight for his place in 2011, and although he responded with improved performances as the season began, he then missed the last eight games with a Lisfranc injury.
Alonzo Tweedy took over from Gouveia-Winslow following his injury, and played well in his absence. Although slowed by an ankle injury, the starting job now seems to be Tweedy’s to lose, and Gouveia-Winslow will need to excel in camp in order to reclaim his place in his senior year.
As if that wasn’t enough, there’s some noise being made about redshirt freshman Ronny Vandyke. When speaking to Mark Giannotto at the Washington Post, defensive coordinator Bud Foster’s words were less than optimistic about Gouveia-Winslow’s chances:
[Gouveia-Winslow] is a good, solid football player, but from an ability standpoint with Tweedy and Vandyke in there, is probably the third-best athlete out there. But he has some things he brings to the table.
Tweedy showed some signs, and again in the bowl game, of what he’s capable of doing. I’m hoping he’s a guy who’s going to have a big time senior year.
Picking the positives out of that statement is a less than simple task, but I would highlight Foster’s comment where he infers that Gouveia-Winslow has talents that are unique to his skill set.
The following slides outline why he will come back stronger in 2012.
Every college athlete relies on their family and friends as a support network, and that network will at some point need to offer advice when things aren’t going the way they were supposed to.
However, not every college athlete has a father that won two Super Bowls. Kurt Gouveia played 13 years in the NFL and was a member of the Washington Redskins team that lifted the Lombardi trophy in 1987 and 1991.
Gouveia was also a linebacker, so will be able to offer advice and coaching that his son’s competition simply won’t have access to.
Gouveia-Winslow is a smart football player, and I fully expect him to have spent his time away from the field studying the nuances of his position, which will have included going to his father for guidance.
As Kyle Tucker reported for The Virginian-Pilot, Gouveia-Winslow and his father had little to no relationship during his formative years. It wasn’t until Gouveia-Winslow wanted answers that he confronted his absent father, and the ensuing storm of emotion led to a mutual standpoint on which to forge a relationship: football.
The elder Gouveia has been offering his son advice since that point—about their shared position and the game as a whole—and Gouveia-Winslow will return even smarter than last year, fiercely determined to assert his seniority.
Going into the 2010 season, Gouveia-Winslow emerged as the starting linebacker. Following a series of poor performances, he then had to earn his job back in 2011. He won that battle too, but his injury—and Tweedy’s solid performance—has meant that he is once more forced to prove his worth and earn his starts.
This sort of experience tests the character of a player, and Gouveia-Winslow has already shown that he has the mental strength to overcome it. The challenge of Tweedy and Vandyke will be the biggest of his football life, however, and he will need to draw upon all his experience to outmaneuver them both.
Despite Bud Foster’s glowing endorsement of Alonzo Tweedy, the risk of injury recurrence is strong. Tweedy is a guy who has something of an injury-prone past, so there remains the chance that Gouveia-Winslow will get an opportunity in 2012 even if he doesn’t win the camp battle.
Vandyke seems to be the guy that the Hokies have tagged for the future, but that doesn’t mean he is the winner. Gouveia-Winslow has the game experience—even though his athleticism is inferior to Vandyke’s, his game-gleaned knowledge as starting linebacker should mean that he outperforms Vandyke in camp.
There is a reason that I have tied Gouveia-Winslow’s fate in with Tweedy and Vandyke’s, which is that the three of them offer a chance for Virginia Tech to use them all in different packages.
Vandyke has seen action in the secondary at strong safety, but was moved to whip linebacker this spring. Mark Giannotto reported for the Washington Post that Vandyke excelled in covering wide receivers, recording an interception in camp and looking like a complete player.
As noted by Giannotto, this gives Frank Beamer an interesting dilemma. Utilizing Vandyke in a hybrid position allows the LB to block, rush the passer and take assignments in coverage, which gives a extra layer of deception to the Hokies’ playbook.
This leaves the pace of Tweedy and the all-round intelligence of Gouveia-Winslow. There will undoubtedly be occasions when Tweedy’s athleticism gives him the edge, and Gouveia-Winslow will find it difficult to compete on this front.
The difference-maker for the season could be the first game.
The Hokies opening game is a nationally-televised home matchup with Georgia Tech, and eminently losable. In this situation, Beamer will want to come out on top, which means no mistakes.
This sort of occasion requires players with experience, positional knowledge and the ability to thrive under pressure. With everything that Gouveia-Winslow has been through up to this point, he’s the best candidate for the job.
If he selects him in the first game, Frank Beamer may then find it very difficult to leave Jeron Gouveia-Winslow out. Or remove him from the field, for that matter.