Woods Emerging as a Leader in Ole Miss Secondary

September 6, 2017

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Sept. 6, 2017

By Brian Scott Rippee, OleMissSports.com

Oxford, Miss – More than twice this season, Ole Miss defensive coordinator Wesley McGriff has pointed to safety Zedrick Woods as a guy who has become a leader in the Rebel secondary, stabilizing the unit with his consistent play.

“I see it as an honor for a coach to see me like that,” Woods said. “I have to live up to that standard and come with a mindset every day to work.”

The junior from Lake City, Florida was second on the team in tackles a year ago and was a birght spot in a difficult year for the Ole Miss defense. He’s taken more of a leadership role this season and has helped some of the younger guys in the secondary develop. Jaylon Jones, a sophomore transitioning from cornerback to safety, is a good example of that.

“That is someone they asked to take under my wing because he is transitioning sometimes from safety to corner,” Woods said. “So he really has to learn the defense and I have been spending a lot of time with him in the film room.”

Woods had three tackles and two pass breaks ups in the season opening win over South Alabama. But he wants to see more out of this year’s defense.

“We were definitely displeased with the way we tackled,” Woods said. “We know we can tackle better. It is just a lack of focus. Of course we can all tackle, it is just putting in the mindset of making a great tackle.”

Ole Miss did a better job of making adjustments against the South Alabama run game in the second half. Woods pointed to the small things such as his alignment being a slightly off as the difference between stopping a running back in the second level or having him run by.

“That extra two yards for us as a safety can cause a running back to get oustide of us. So it is just assignment, alignment and getting the job done,” Woods said.

With two years of game experience under his belt, Woods is taking ownership of the defense. He knows he is now one of the veteran guys on this team and is assuming the responsibility of one.

“I take it as if something goes wrong it is on me,” Woods said. “I feel like this year I have more of a leadership role in making sure everything is lined up.”

He feels more comfortable in what he feels is a simpler defense under McGriff and he’s eager to get back onto the field and flash the defense’s improvement.

“I am real comfortable,” Woods said. “This defense is allowing us to play fast and physical. He is not throwing too much at us. I am really comfortable with it.”

Matt Luke said after practice that Qaadir Sheppard and Jordan Sims have practiced this week and should be ready to play on Saturday. D.D. Bowie had surgery on his thumb to repair a torn ligament and will not play. Luke hopes to have his freshman defensive back by next week’s game against Cal.

Kickoff against UT-Martin is set for 11:00 a.m.

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