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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

All eyes on Woods for Arizona’s secondary

With the majority of Arizona’s focus on limiting USC running back Marc Tyler and USC’s ground attack, the Wildcats can’t forget about wide receiver Robert Woods.

After an inconsistent freshman season, the five-star recruit and No. 1-rated high school receiver has turned the corner as a sophomore and is developing into one of the top wideouts in not only the Pac-12, but also the nation.

“He’s got all the tools, man,” said Arizona secondary coach Ryan Walters. “He’s going to be a really good player in the future. He’s very good after he catches it, and he has great hands. Great route-runner, and he’s very competitive. He’s a complete receiver.”

Through four games, the 19-year-old speedster ranks second in the nation in receptions with 41 — 11 more than the Pac-12’s second-place receiver — and third in receiving yards with 492.

His four receiving touchdowns are also tied for tops in the Pac-12. If the Carson, Calif., native continues with his torrid pace, he’ll finish the season with 123 catches, 1,476 yards and 12 scores.

“His route-running ability is great, he has great hand-eye coordination with the ball to go up and get it,” said Arizona safety Robert Golden. “He’s a very good receiver.”

Woods showed flashes of greatness as a freshman in 2010, but his inconsistency kept him from becoming an elite receiver. But after catching fewer than five balls in all of his first five career games, he broke out mid-season against Stanford with a 12-catch, 224-yard, three-touchdown performance. Woods hit stride after that performance.

“He’s just developed,” said head coach Mike Stoops. “You can tell he’s a much different player than he was a year ago. Just much more mature, understanding how to space the field, routes, catching, everything. He’s just a much more complete player right now than he was a year ago.”

Walters, who played safety at Colorado and played against NFL receivers like Michael Crabtree and Dez Bryant, compared Woods’ speed and 6-foot-1, 180-pound frame to Philadelphia Eagles receiver Jeremy Maclin.

“He’s different than the great receivers I’ve gone against,” Walters said. “The Crabtrees, the Dez Bryants, those are pretty physical guys. I wouldn’t say he’s that physical but he’s more like a Jeremy Maclin type receiver. Quick, fast, good hands, elusive, he’s all those.”

Arizona’s secondary got the night off against Oregon last week as the Ducks threw the ball only 20 times, but the Wildcats will be tested this Saturday. Since getting torched by Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon, the UA defensive backs have been solid.

“Coverage-wise, I think they’ve gotten a lot better,” Walters said. “A lot tighter coverage on the back end. I think communication’s been a lot better. Shaq’s (cornerback Shaquille Richardson) playing a lot better, Trevin’s (cornerback Trevin Wade) playing lights out, Golden’s been steady.”

Arizona’s secondary will get a lift with the return of starting safety Marquis Flowers, but the Wildcats will still have their hands full with Woods, quarterback Matt Barkley and USC’s play-action-heavy scheme come Saturday.

“They try and run, run, run then play action and get a deep ball with him or try to run, run, boot you and just get him the ball out in space and let him make a play,” Golden said. “We’ve just got to be down on our technique.”

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