SANTA ANA, Calif. – Anaheim Servite coach Troy Thomas knows a thing or two about coaching great players.
Not only has he coached some good ones over the years, but he also has some of the top underclassmen in the nation on his team. So when he says that Vista, Calif., three-star linebacker Travis Goethel is something special you have to pay attention.
"This kid can play with anybody," said Thomas, who has worked with Goethel all week long at the practices for Saturday's Air 7 CaliFlorida Bowl. "He might have had the best week of practice out of anybody else here. He just flies around and makes a lot of big plays."
Goethel, who is 6-foot-2 and 218 pounds, quickly earned the respect of his California teammates in practice this week. He is the first to admit that he doesn't physically look like many other typical football players and some people might judge him because of that. His long blond mane makes him look like he's better suited for a surf board instead of shoulder pads.
Those that think that are flat out wrong. This kid can play.
"I've had a good week," Goethel said. "I kind of stayed away from football since our season was over, and I got away from it. It was good to get back in here and see it come back into shape.
"It feels good to do this against the best of the best. I've always wanted to things like this against the guys that I've seen at camps. We didn't get a chance to play against a lot of these guys this year."
That's about as talkative as Goethel gets. He definitely is a man of few works. When asked to describe his playing style, he offered up a relatively simple explanation.
"I just play hard and run into stuff," he said.
Goethel has been one of the few linebackers that can hang with the speedy California receivers and running backs in man-to-man situations all week long. And his ability to fly up and support the run proves he's durable enough to play on every down.
Goethel is typical of the type of player that slips away from the top level Pac 10 teams and ends up being a heck of a player for that team. Teams like Oregon State, Washington and Utah have made a living off players like this in the past, so it's no surprise it's those three teams at the top of his list.
"I'm not sure where I'm going," Goethel said. "But I've got Oregon State, Utah, Washington and San Diego State on my list. But I like all three of Oregon State, Utah and Washington to be honest."
San Diego State has tried to make a push on him since new coach Chuck Long was hired, but the Aztecs might have a shot but have a lot of ground to make up.
"I'm talking to coach Long from San Diego State about a visit," Goethel said. "He called me right after he got hired. He's a cool guy, but I've not met him in person."
Goethel also has offers from Colorado, Nebraska and UCLA, but did not mention those teams.