Gene Sapakoff is the oldest, fastest, hardest-hitting sports journalist in S.C. As columnist at The Post and Courier he covers Clemson, South Carolina and other interesting things. He likes food and has won the prestigious Judson Chapman Award 3 times.

Wes Goodwin (copy) (copy)

Wes Goodwin is 1-0 as a Clemson defensive coordinator having helped the Tigers defeat Iowa State in the Cheez-It Bowl on Dec. 29, 2021. Gene Sapakoff/Staff

CLEMSON – Wes Goodwin, relentlessly purposeful and economical, certainly looked the part of a professional multi-tasker.

He walked away from a sweltering Clemson morning practice inside Death Valley wearing an orange and white ballcap with a block letter “C” with a purple windbreaker pulled over a T-shirt.

“I need to sweat,” Goodwin explained.

Of course, Dabo Swinney thinks he’s hired college football’s next genius defensive coordinator. But don’t take the Clemson head coach’s word for it.

Goodwin gets heaps of praise from ex-bosses, too: former NFL head coach Bruce Arians, previous Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables, former Mississippi State head baseball coach Ron Polk and others.

Mike Jones, a former Clemson linebacker who bolted for LSU, chimed in at SEC Media Days in July.

“I don't think (losing Venables) is really going to affect Clemson that much,” Jones said. “They have a veteran group, they play to a standard and they have Wes Goodwin. I believe in Wes a lot.”

A coach who once worked with Goodwin and is now working for one of Clemson’s rival schools this summer was asked about the 37-year-old sometimes known as “Weslichick” for a cerebral resemblance to Bill Belichick.

“We’re not supposed to say anything nice about Clemson around here,” the coach said with a grin. “But he’s a great football coach who will do great things.”

One of Goodwin’s Clemson neighbors agrees.

“Wes has been awesome,” Clemson offensive coordinator Brandon Streeter said. “He’s such a smart guy and he’s ahead of the game. He’s always a step ahead. No hesitation. He knows what he wants. Very organized. And just fun to be around.”

No apologies here for thinking Goodwin oozes great potential.

He’s likely to play a major role for a national championship winner soon.

If he doesn’t get a Super Bowl ring first.

So far, it’s been about what Goodwin expected since Swinney – surprisingly to those outside the Clemson football building but not within the program – promoted Goodwin from senior analyst in December after Venables left to become head coach at Oklahoma.

“Probably my deal is just figuring out my schedule from a daily standpoint,” Goodwin said, “just how much time I need to allot to game-planning, recruiting, that sort of deal. When you transition positions, you have an idea but I’m such a routine-oriented guy, so just figuring that out and getting comfortable and getting set in what I do on a daily standpoint.”

Extended career development will get an assist from Clemson’s rookie-friendly schedule.

Trotter watch

It’s as if Swinney consulted with bowl officials and the ACC office in asking for the ideal way to break in a new defensive coordinator.

First came a Cheez-It Bowl date with Iowa State, minus its best player, opted-out running back Breece Hall.

Check. A 20-13 Clemson victory in Orlando to give the Tigers a positive finish to a generally disappointing 10-3 season.

Next up: A Monday night season opener against woeful Georgia Tech at Atlanta’s Mercedes Benz Stadium on Sept. 3.

Followed by home games against Furman and Louisiana Tech before a Sept. 24 game at Wake Forest.

Meanwhile, back in the sweatsuit, Goodwin presides over another ridiculously stacked Clemson defense.

Everyone knows about the defensive line depth that starts with Myles Murphy, Bryan Bresee and Xavier Thomas (when he returns in four to six weeks from a foot injury).

And sophomore linebacker Trenton Simpson. And sophomore safety Andrew Mukuba.

It’s also more and more likely that savvy sophomore Jeremiah Trotter Jr. will break through in 2022 and wreck a lot of play calls while establishing himself as one of the nation’s top inside linebackers.

“He’s been really impressive,” Goodwin said of Trotter, the son of former Philadelphia Eagles four-time Pro Bowl linebacker Jeremiah Trotter, who also wore No. 54. “Really productive in all of our competitive work.”

That includes zone coverage ability.

Goodwin in practices has been thrilled with, among others, highly recruited freshman cornerbacks Toriano Pride and Jeadyn Lukas.

“Well beyond their years,” he said.

Larry Fitzgerald lessons

Keen observation is a great Goodwin trait.

“Just taking all the knowledge I’ve learned from some really great and successful coordinators over the years,” he said, “and just molding that to fit myself.”

Goodwin brings the full arsenal to every team activity.

He reminds Clemson players what he learned from soon-to-be Hall of Fame receiver Larry Fitzgerald while working from 2015-2017 as an Arizona Cardinals staff assistant to Arians.

“Every day he was locked in,” Goodwin said. “He never took a step back. That’s just the mentality that you have to have every day if you want to be elite.”

Baseball phrases are still there. They come from years around the sport and a student-manager stint under Polk at Mississippi State.

“Batting practice,” Goodwin said after a football workout, “is not the same as live pitching.”

And then one of the Goodwin go-to lines for players in August: “In preseason football you either get exposure or you get exposed.”

It’s pretty much the same for coordinators from September into December, or January.

Goodwin, however, is in a good spot.

But that’s Clemson’s problem.

Because it might not be as much about Wes Goodwin replacing Brent Venables as finding someone to replace Wes Goodwin as the defensive coordinator’s whiz kid assistant.

Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff