Russ Bell doesn’t know Marcus Woods’ name. Soon enough, Bell and the rest of the Big 12 will.
Bell calls Woods a “quick, shifty Michigan guy,” and compares Woods with another former quick, shifty Michigan guy who had a fair amount of success in football.
“Wow, we saw him on tape and he had moves, but he has been amazing,” said Bell, a Missouri starting defensive tackle. “He’s like our own little Barry Sanders out there.”
Woods, a 5-foot-8, 185-pound package of speed and agility, is one of Missouri’s most impressive freshmen. His 4.4 speed in the 40-yard dash and uncanny ability to change direction in the open field gives the Tigers an element in the backfield they have not had in a long time.
Woods ran for 1,550 yards and 23 touchdowns in his senior year at Harrison (Mich.) High and became the school’s career leading rusher (4,803 yards). He said he is getting used to the adjustment from high school football to coach Gary Pinkel’s rigorous practices.
“It’s a big difference; I mean back in high school it was real slow. They would try to protect me,” Woods said. “Now, at Missouri, we are always doing something. They don’t let you stand around. Coach Pinkel is real strict, real focused and likes everybody to be real serious too. I love that a lot.”
Pinkel has a system for evaluating freshmen and making a decision on whether they should redshirt. In general, Pinkel prefers to give them a redshirt so they can have a year in the program to develop physically and learn the schemes.
“The philosophy is if anybody can help the program as a freshman or first year player they have to help because No. 1 is to win this year,” Pinkel said. “It’s up to me to make sure we don’t waste a player’s year.”
Woods said he wants to play and play as early as possible as a kick returner or tailback. The competition for the running back job is fierce and Woods, fourth on the depth chart, knows the way to stand out is to pay attention to the small details.
“The little things in practice, not fumbling, catching everything, knowing your assignment, going right instead of left, that is important,” Woods said. “All the small things, you try to do all those things different than everybody else. Everybody is good, everybody has the skills, but not everyone can avoid the mental mistakes. Whoever can avoid those things will probably get to play.”
Please see Woods, page 6B