The Light Comes on for WVU's Woods

  • By John Antonik
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  • October 04, 2012 12:15 AM
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So, who is this guy J.D. Woods with the Venus flytrap hands, anyway?

By now, everyone has seen the highlight replayed over and over on TV of his twisting, back-turned-to-the-defense, one-handed grab against Baylor that became THE highlight in a game full of highlights.

“Sick,” is what quarterback Geno Smith called Woods’ catch on the MSN postgame radio show. Geno also correctly pointed out that if J.D. doesn’t get his big right paw up in the air the football likely would have ended up in a Baylor defender’s arms with a clear path to the end zone.

And in a game as topsy-turvy as that one, a 70-63 Mountaineer win, who knows how things would have turned out if Woods doesn’t catch the ball the way Fred Biletnikoff used to catch them off his elbows when stickum was still allowed in the NFL.

Speaking of terrific catches, hit the rewind button back to the first of Geno’s eight touchdown passes when Woods had to go up and pull down a high hard one in the back of the end zone. It wasn’t one-handed, but that catch might have been just as impressive.

“I saw the ball in the air and I knew I was in the blue (end zone), and when you are in the blue, that’s money,” Woods said earlier this week.

West Virginia already has money in Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey – those two combining for a Madden Football-like 89 catches for 1,195 yards and 17 touchdowns in just four games - Bailey working the football field vertically and Austin taking care of things horizontally.

Now, it looks like the Mountaineers have a No. 3 guy to patrol the rest of the field in Woods. In Holgorsen’s socialistic approach to throwing the football, No. 3s can be just as lethal as No. 1s and No. 2s.

Last year’s third guy, Ivan McCartney, managed to catch 49 passes for 585 yards and three touchdowns despite an assortment of injuries. Two years ago, when Holgorsen was dialing up touchdowns as Oklahoma State’s offensive coordinator, Bo Bowling caught 42 passes for 437 yards.

In 2009, when Holgorsen was at Houston, Patrick Edwards caught 85 passes for 1,021 yards and six scores. The year before that Edwards had 46 grabs for 634 yards and four TDs.

Do you see a trend developing here?

Woods’ 27 catches so far this year averages out to 6.8 receptions per game – which is more than the leading receiver in the SEC and would be the second-most in both the Big Ten and the Big East. He ranks fifth in the pass crazy Big 12.

“It’s very exciting just because you never know when it’s your time,” said Woods. “That’s why you have to run your routes hard and know that you are going to be open and know that the ball is going to come your way.”

Earlier this summer, it wasn’t a sure bet that Woods would even be in a position to be making all of these great catches. He may not have been in Holgorsen’s doghouse, but he also wasn’t sitting on the front porch either.

“The light came on for him in camp,” said Holgorsen. “If you remember, he didn’t play much in camp because he wasn’t eligible. I’m proud of J.D. He stayed the course.”

Before this season, the course Woods seemed to be taking was clearly off the beaten path headed toward obscurity. His most productive season came in 2010 when he caught 18 passes for 205 yards and a touchdown. Last year, he appeared in nine games, making seven catches for 67 yards.

A shoulder injury took care of his freshman season in 2008 and a lot of 2009 when he appeared in only four games. Before that, his 54 catches for 851 yards and seven touchdowns as a senior at Golden Gate High in Naples, Fla., didn’t exactly have the other major Florida schools beating down his front door. In fact, it came down to West Virginia and UConn for Woods’ services, and it took a home visit from Rich Rodriguez and assistant coach Bill Kirelawich to seal the deal.

Now, four years later, the light is finally shining brightly on him, thanks in part to Holgorsen’s swashbuckling style of play.

“I’m just grateful for the opportunity that Coach Holgorsen has presented me, and I’ve been working hard and I won’t let up,” Woods said.

A productive J.D. Woods will only add to the worries opposing defensive coordinators already have trying to come up with a plan to defend Austin and Bailey. If Woods can keep up what he’s doing it will require additional time for defenses to account for him - and less time devising ways to slow down Austin and Bailey.

“With those two guys as versatile as they are, now defenses can’t play zone on one side or key in on both of those guys,” explained Woods, adding that Austin and Bailey have a way of elevating everyone’s games on both sides of the ball anyway.

“It definitely excites you as a player, and it makes you want to run that much faster and play that much harder just because you know those guys are giving it all they have,” Woods said.

Who knows? Perhaps Austin, Bailey and Woods might turn out to be the best threesome around here since bacon, lettuce and tomato.

As for his one-handed grab, Woods said he first learned how to do that little trick back in his Pop Warner days.

“It stuck with me through the years,” he said. “My uncles always told me, ‘Catch first and move second.’ When I think of that, I put my hands up and just get ready for the ball.”

And make one-handed catches.

Check out Antonik's new book The Backyard Brawl: Stories from One of the Weirdest, Wildest, Longest Running, and Most Intense Rivalries in College Football History now available in bookstores. A portion of the sales benefit the WVU Department of Intercollegiate Athletics. Also, be sure to "Like" the new Backyard Brawl Facebook page and tell us your personal WVU-Pitt story.


West Virginia University Mountaineers, WVU, Big 12 football, J.D. Woods