Red hot Woods
Across the nation former Tigers are actively competing in camp, trying to carve out their roles at their respective colleges and universities.
About 600 miles west, in Oxford, Miss., Zedrick Woods continues to wreak havoc in the Rebels’ defensive backfield during practice.
Woods earned his playing time as a freshman last season, finding himself juggling three, sometimes four different positions. The Rebels’ utility man finished with 25 tackles and an interception.
Perhaps he isn’t the strongest guy or the fastest, certainly not the biggest, yet somehow Woods stands out from the pack at Ole Miss.
“Very good football I.Q. as a freshman coming in and [we’re] really just trying to find a place that he feels comfortable, ‘cause knowledge-wise he knows all four positions,” Ole Miss safeties coach Corey Batoon told the Daily Mississippian.
While he may be versatile, the former lockdown linebacker at Columbia wants to excel at one position and is zeroing in on the starting free safety job at Ole Miss.
After a rigorous summer filled with exhausting one-on-one drills, Woods is confident he’ll be the deep safety starter when the season starts in a few weeks.
“I’m just trying to secure my spot,” he said of the position battle between him, junior C.J. Hampton and redshirt freshman Armani Linton. “I’m starting at safety right now. I’ve just got to keep building confidence in the coaches and secure it.”
Woods said he feels worlds more comfortable entering camp this season, carrying himself like a veteran despite his sophomore status.
“I just really understand the defense,” he said. “I’m starting to understand the defense as a whole now and where everybody is supposed to be.”
Woods — or “Red,” as his football brethren refer to him — has enjoyed a smooth transition into college, adopting an Ole Miss defense similar to Columbia’s. With his intellect and instinct second to none, he’s already showing promise that he could become one of the conference’s best.
Ole Miss had a prize jewel in Laremy Tunsil. The Rebels might just have another Lake City gem in Woods.
One of the biggest questions surrounding the Rebels this season is their maturity in the secondary as they’re set to field a relatively inexperienced group.
Seniors Trae Elston and Mike Hilton are gone. The younger guys must grow fast, and Woods has accepted the challenge.
“Even though we’re young, all of us are better athletes as a whole,” Woods said. “We’ve just got to execute.”
When asked if he’s going to acknowledge his friend and former Columbia standout, Florida State defensive back Trey Marshall, when the Rebels face the Seminoles in the season opener, Woods didn’t hesitate.
“Oh yes, I’m going give them a warm welcome.