Written by Caroline Deisley, USC blog contributor
There is plenty to be excited about in the upcoming year of USC football, and with spring ball underway the Trojans are discovering new and improved talent all across the field. Whether new to the roster or finally positioned for a starting role, this year's spring breakouts are ready to make a major impact.
Year: Redshirt Junior
Position: Defensive Lineman
The Past: Woods saw some action as a starter on the defensive line last season after serving mostly as a backup during his redshirt freshman season in 2012. He started six games in 2013 and played in all 13, racking up 19 tackles, two for losses (including an 8-yard sack) and one deflection. This improvement added on to what the big guy accomplished in his first season as he only started four games but did appear in all 13, recording 16 tackles including 4.5 tackles for loss. Though he has yet to be a mainstay for the Trojans, Woods has been extremely dependable and versatile for a USC defensive line that has battled injuries the past couple of seasons.
The Present: After the Trojans capped off an emotional 2013 season with a win in the Las Vegas Bowl, Woods was inspired to continue what the team had started on an individual level as he headed into the offseason. He began working on his craft just a few days after the bowl game as the redshirt junior realized that a new staff meant new opportunities to prove his worth. Woods has certainly proved that he is more than capable as a starting nose guard so far in spring ball as both head coach Steve Sarkisian and defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox are quick to credit Woods as their standout player on defense this spring both in terms of physicality and leadership.
The Future: Woods' big improvement couldn't have happened at a better time for the Trojans as they lost three key defensive line starters last season in Devon Kennard, George Uko and Morgan Breslin. Woods lines up at the nose tackle position meaning he is granted the unfortunate task of trying to disrupt the offense without getting much of the praise via high sack or tackle statistics. His job is to open up opportunities for players like LB Hayes Pullard to rack up numbers by occupying as many blockers as possible. Woods has also shown the potential to join Pullard as one of the standout leaders on the defense, drastically improving his vocal presence as a team leader on a squad that has a lot of new players playing new positions in a new system.
Sark on Woods: "He has had a heck of a spring. I think Antwaun has really been the standard on the defensive side of the ball all spring long. He's really matured to me and he's a great leader for us. He's really a playmaker, he lives in the backfield. He does an amazing job of making the ball bounce to the perimeter and he does it with tremendous energy."
Here is Woods with our Caroline Deisley...