As a Recruit
A native of Citra, FL (about 30 minutes south of downtown Gainesville), Woods played his high school football at North Marion High School -- a program with a relatively rich recent history of sending players to play at Power-5 programs. (While a highly-rated prospect, Woods wasn't even the highest-rated prospect on the team this year, and is one of three prospects headed to Power-5 level programs.) He committed to Georgia Tech on the evening of January 25, a little over a week before National Signing Day and a little over a week after his official visit to the Flats. (Fans will remember that Woods' commitment came amidst a flurry of commitments, where the Jackets had four players commit within a 36-hour span.) He picked Georgia Tech over offers from Tennessee, West Virginia, Miami, Florida, Duke, georgia, and several other Power-5 teams. Woods stands at 6'4", and weighs in at 255 pounds.
What's easy to forget is how close Woods was to not even visiting Georgia Tech. Just hours before he was due to arrive on the Flats, there was a video interview released where Woods stated that he had "already committed to the coaches somewhere" and would be releasing a video early in the following week to announce that commitment. There was strong suspicion that Woods would be headed to Tennessee, and many Yellow Jacket fans became worried about the upcoming visit. However, it was around that time that Tennessee had a very public issue regarding a long-time commitment having his offer pulled, casting doubt on whether the coaching staff in Knoxville could be trusted. Between the unrest there and the impression that the official visit made on Woods, Georgia Tech went all the way from "dead in the water" to securing Woods' commitment within only about 10 days -- an impressive job by the coaches, not to mention the opposition and high-caliber prospect involved.
Woods was rated a four-star prospect by Rivals (5.8) and a three-star prospect by the 247Sports Composite (.8869). He's the highest-rated recruit by Rivals to sign with Georgia Tech since Step Durham in the 2014 signing class, and the highest-rated defensive lineman to sign since Francis Kallon in 2012.
A look at Woods' senior highlights above shows why he was so highly-rated. A few of my big takeaways from them:
- Probably the biggest thing I noticed across Woods' highlights was how consistently he showed excellent discipline. He consistently manages to keep contain on the back side of plays, he's not fooled by misdirection, and he's able to diagnose and defend screen passes. The discipline with which he plays, even when able to outplay opponents on pure athleticism, is a really impressive trait to watch.
- Speaking of athleticism, Woods is very much the total package as an athlete. He exhibits good speed in pursuit, excellent agility when rushing the passer, and the strength to clog up running lanes and stop ballcarriers in their tracks. While each still has room for improvement, none of them would classify as a "weakness". His ability to do each will enable him to be very flexible with different roles and assignments at the next level.
- For a big defensive end, Woods' ability to turn the corner when rushing the passer is really impressive, and makes him very dangerous in those situations. His agility in general is quite impressive at his size.
- The two primary things that Woods probably could stand to improve on to reach his potential at the next level are his bull rush ability (particularly against the pass, but also in run defense), and using his hands better to fight off opposing blockers. Woods' size, speed and agility would make him dangerous as a pass-rusher, but adding a bull rush move to his arsenal would help him to more consistently get to the passer at the next level, as well as giving him the ability to better support in run defense.
Overall, Woods' size, speed, and agility put him somewhere between the strongside and weakside defensive end roles in Georgia Tech's defense. As a WDE, he would be one of the biggest Yellow Jackets to play the role in several years, and he could provide a bit of a boost in run defense as a result. On the other hand, Woods has potential to provide a major pass-rushing boost from the SDE spot with his speed and agility. Even with room for improvement, it's easy to see Woods contributing immediately, particularly in specific packages based on game situations.
What to Expect
While Woods' talent level is at a place where he could realistically contribute right away, he may not get the opportunity to do so in 2016. A quick look at the Georgia Tech Scholarship Breakdown shows 6 defensive ends with more experience who Woods would be competing with for playing time. The Yellow Jackets could legitimately go three-deep at both defensive end spots in 2016 without putting any freshmen on the field. (For those interested, in likely depth chart order, that's Rook-Chungong, Branch, and Merriweather at SDE, and Freeman, Saint-Amour, and Simmons at WDE.)
Taking that into consideration, barring injuries, it's hard to see the coaches using a year of Woods' eligibility in 2016 -- they'll most likely look to redshirt him and preserve that eligibility. That said, it's entirely possible that Woods could beat out one or more of the more experienced players in camp, and he'd be an easy choice to use in case of injury to one of the aforementioned players. While his talent would be tough to keep off of the field, Woods didn't exactly show up to an empty cabinet at the defensive end position for Georgia Tech either.