Previously: Last year's profiles.
|Florence, AL – 6'3", 205|
|Scout||4*, NR overall
|Rivals||3*, NR overall
#45 S, #24 AL
|ESPN||4*, NR overall
#22 S, #18 AL
|24/7||3*, #591 overall
#46 S, #30 AL
|Other Suitors||MissSt, Ark, LSU, VT, Tenn, Duke|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace.|
Most of the time I come into these profiles with some idea of what I'm going to say about the player in question, but pretty much all I remembered about J'Marick Woods is that he does not have a nickname. Because this is not a nickname:
"He's kind of earning his nickname -- we call him 'Woods' -- and he definitely brings the wood, as a physical player."
That is literally his name. No, I will not drop this. This is important. I used the tag and everything. This, on the other hand, is in fact a nickname:
"He's 'The Truth.' ... I know they hit down South, but he's a different human," Chris Evans said. "The way he's been hitting people all spring it's like 'oh, you've got to watch out for that guy because he's really hitting people hard.'"
It is also a Perd Hapley quote.
Anyway, it turns out that Woods is a large safety, listed at 6'3" everywhere except ESPN (which gives him an extra inch) who mostly slipped through the cracks when it came to scouting evaluations. There are drips and drabs here and there, but not much other than the sites' now-usual commitment-spurred scouting post. This is a situation where I'll watch the film to try to come up with my own opinion, and the main thing I took away from Woods's is that he is indeed very large. Almost unbelievably large. This is a common impression:
"Coach Durkin said he couldn't believe how big I was in person," Woods said.
His most impressive plays come on balls over his head that he has the vertical reach to affect. In an ideal world he is the free safety who's maddeningly able to get to everything deep.
Scout's profile echoes this assessment:
...great length. ... could get a look at cornerback, but he is likely a free safety in college. His length is an asset in coverage and recovery. He has wide receiver-like hands and he makes plays on the ball. ...great range and he reads things well.
As did Clint Brewster on 24/7:
...great length and range. ...really reads the quarterback well, flows to the ball instinctively. Woods has the athleticism and ball skills you like at safety. He looks like a receiver going up for jump balls. It's hard for teams to complete deep passes over the top of him because of his length and vertical jump.
Very good height and frame ... long arms and rangy body ... Covers a lot of ground quickly and flashes very good pursuit speed. More straight-line in speed and movements. ... Shows good ball skills and awareness around it when its in the air. Will go up and attack the ball at its highest point. Turns into a receiver when the ball is in the air. Shows good range coming off the mark getting on top of routes. Still developing man to man skills.
Woods is an ideal centerfielder.
He also garners praise for his run support, which is unusual for a lanky high school safety at his height. He's got to tackle RBs a half-foot shorter than him, and he does so ably. Brewster:
...explosive tackler that runs through ball-carriers with his shoulder. He diagnoses and reads action quickly. Does a great job shutting down the option or zone read. Really good breaking down in the open field and coming up with a tackle.
Productive run defender from the high-point, in the box or from the line of scrimmage as a blitzer. Fills fast downhill and with a purpose. ... Closes hard on ball carriers and delivers a pop on contact. Lacks a a lot of punch behind him at this point but is strong in his ability to lasso ball carriers to the ground and is reliable in the open field.
The one aspect of safety play that consistently gets dinged is man-to-man, and that is something of a concern in an aggressive Don Brown defense that frequently flips safety assignments on motion. Any Don Brown safety is going to find himself in situations where he has to check someone man-to-man. The "straight-line" assertion might end up being a problem: if Woods can't change direction well he'll be in trouble if he gets flipped onto a slot receiver.
But these evaluations don't fit the ranking. A couple of sites had him an unranked four-star, including ESPN; it still feels like an evaluation that end with "Woods has the frame, range, athleticism and aggressiveness that should make him a coveted safety prospect" would correspond to something more.
Michigan certainly had him high on their board. Michigan offered Woods before anyone else, just after his sophomore year. Per Lorenz, Duke was Michigan's main competition before his early commitment. Woods took visits to Arkansas and Mississippi State during the season before re-affirming to Michigan; a reported LSU offer is probably in the "offer" category. The offers do match the rating.
What's going on here? This is a 3.5* prospect with an elite frame—it can't be all sunshine and roses. One factor in the ranking: I can't find any reference to Woods attending a recruiting camp. He hit up a Michigan satellite camp but he did not do any of the Opening stuff, Rivals Five-Star stuff, etc. Not one. He did play in the Mississippi-Alabama All Star game but the only scouting I found coming out of that was a negative take:
"...worked out both ways [at the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game] and actually looked more comfortable at tight end than on defense. He has some raw physical tools that can’t be taught, but will need some time to develop at the next level.”
That was the only scouting a Rivals employee with the power to rate players offered.
Tim Sullivan is very good at tactfully mentioning negatives but there wasn't a whole lot he had other than adding weight:
Woods's aggressive style of play typically includes a sense of responsibility that prevents him from giving up big plays on play-action while still being able to come down in run support when the ball is handed off. Remaining a student of the game will allow that to continue in college, again when the opposition has more speed and talent.
He also doesn't yet show an ability to take on blocks on the edge.
Other parts of his evaluation do suggest he's going to take some polishing. In his "class impact" piece he notes that Woods played both ways at Florence and was actually more of a wide receiver early in his career, asserting that "turning his natural athleticism and ball-hawking attitude into a well-rounded defensive back may be a bit of a process." Overall, though, Sullivan's take is positive. He was "likely undervalued" after his junior year.
There's no dissenting voice that actually bothered to type something out, then. Woods has great evals, middling offers, and a middling ranking. Hard to parse.
Woods was one of Michigan's 11 early enrollees and seems to have improved his stock despite not playing in the spring game. The injury that held him out did not affect him for most of the spring, allowing Webb to get a clip of him in Rome:
The J'Marick Woods rudely greets a jet sweep.... pic.twitter.com/rFO9N8HExc
— Sam Webb (@SamWebb77) April 29, 2017
It's always tricky to separate out the generically positive coachspeak from words that are actually meaningful, but it is less so when Don Brown is deploying guttural utterances:
"J’Marick didn’t go, which, arghh. I wish you’d have seen him today. He’s really been showing some things."
He can match up against tight ends and he’ll be a guy that won’t necessarily looking up to tight ends. He’ll be almost at eye level with them, so that automatically gives him an advantage. He has got long arms, so he can get his hands on guys and be able to press them. He also has some ability in the post. He has got good range at the post and that’ll definitely help us in our man to man.
(I'm not sure what "the post" means in Michigan's defensive jargon, but I'm guessing that means coming down over a slot receiver?) Smith also asserted in that interview that Woods came in with a 3.5 GPA and he "picks things up quickly," which is necessary at safety.
Etc: I got nothin'.
Why Jeremy Clark? Clark was another skinny, very tall defensive back with a modest recruiting profile and some offers from mid-level SEC schools. Though projected as a safety he moved to corner midway through his Michigan career; there he was an effective starter and eventually an NFL draftee despite losing most of his senior year to a knee injury.
Woods could end up looking like a version of Clark who stays at safety. Clark reportedly struggled with the mental aspects of the position(calling coverages, adjusting to motion, etc.); hopefully the same won't befall Woods. The Duke push offers some reassurance there, as does Brian Smith's take.
Other comparables include Jarrod Wilson (if Woods is very very boring) and Ernest Shazor (if Woods is shockingly athletic and a touchdown factory for the opposition).
Guru Reliability: Moderate-minus. Not a ton of scouting but some; some rankings spread but not a ton; not many camps but did play in a state-vs-state all star game.
Variance: High. Frame gives him a ton of potential. Needs to fill that out and could end up a man without a country, stuck between safety and OLB.
Ceiling: Very high. Scouting reports are notably lacking on athleticism dings and he claims a 4.62 40; pair that with his frame and the sky's the limit for a free safety.
General Excitement Level: High. Woods skipped the rankings rigmarole and his numbers suffered for it; all the scouting is more indicative of a top 150 kid than his actual 3.5* status.
Projection: Woods's early enrollment, positional stability, and special teams suitability would probably see him play right away even if Michigan's safety depth wasn't worrisome. It is, and he's on the two-deep by default. He should get whatever garbage time is available as Kinnel's backup and serve as an integral part of various coverage units; he's not a bad candidate to throw at punters what with his length.
In all likelihood Woods will apprentice again in 2018 with an eye towards being a two year starter at free safety after Kinnel graduates; his competition for that job is not yet on campus so he should be the favorite.