Arkansas free safety Kevin Woods has waited a long time to become one of the Razorbacks' regular starters.
Four years to be exact.
So when defensive coordinator Reggie Herring made a move early this season, pushing senior Michael Grant from free safety to cornerback, Woods breathed a big sigh of relief.
"It meant that it's a chance I've been waiting on," Woods said. "To show what I can do to help my team. That's basically it. It's been long enough. But I've been patient. Everybody's got to be patient when you come to college."
Woods was inserted into the starting lineup at free safety when Grant moved and has anchored the position the past five games. He'll start his sixth straight when the Razorbacks play Florida International in Reynolds Razorback Stadium on Saturday at 1.
The Memphis native has been part of Arkansas' program since 2003, but it has taken more than four years for him to lock down a starting role. Entering this season, Woods had started just four times in his career. Each came at the end of the 2006 season, when Grant was sidelined with a season-ending knee injury.
Woods is the first to admit he hasn't been perfect, but the veteran ranks fourth on the team in tackles (47). He only had 45 in his first three seasons on the field, many of which came on special teams.
More important, Woods been part of a defense that has recovered from a slow start and allowed just 17 points in its past two Southeastern Conference games against Auburn and Ole Miss.
Arkansas cornerbacks coach Bobby Allen said the entire secondary — Woods included — has been a big reason for the turnaround.
"We looked at the film after the Alabama game and obviously we saw some things that were glaring that needed to try to improve on," Allen said. "But our guys just try to put blinders on and just got to go on no matter who you're playing. You've got to get yourself prepared and come on out and play."
Woods said that has been the defense's emphasis ever since the slow start, which included losses to Alabama and Kentucky.
Even though he's in his final year, Woods said he still has room to grow. He's hoping to improve in his coverage skills and can always get better as a tackler, a skill that is vital in his role as Arkansas' last line of defense. Woods may have earned a long-awaited starting role with the Razorbacks, but knows he'll have to continue to fight to hold onto it the final month of the season.
"You can make a great tackle, but the guy doesn't fumble," Woods said. "You always want the best outcome whenever you make a play or whenever you don't make a play. I think I've done all right. I'd say a ‘C' average. But I'm striving for perfection every day."
HI.com Feature: Kevin Woods
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