OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- McDonogh (Owings Mills, Md.) senior Josh Woods had only been playing cornerback for three games, but he looked like a Champ Bailey incarnate out there against archrival Gilman. With the Greyhounds trying to mount a second-half comeback, quarterback Kai Locksley attempted to fire a quick slant to speedy receiver Troy Vincent Jr., but the throw sailed just a bit -- enough for Woods to slide into the passing window and effectively end Gilman's drive.
A quarter later, Woods was at it again. Lined up in man coverage, Locksley tried to throw a pass overtop a McDonogh linebacker, but Woods, who was face-guarding another wideout, redirected himself; jumped the route; and snared another interception. The play was negated due to a pass interference on the previously mentioned linebacker ("bad call, we watched the film later," Woods said), but it was still a stellar play by the 6-foot-3, 180-pound Woods.
"I was just out there having fun," said Woods, who committed to Maryland Nov. 18. "A lot of people tell me not to get worked up and just go out and have fun. Practice pays off, and I go out and make plays."
Two picks, not to mention a touchdown reception on offense, against an elite squad are part of the reason the University of Maryland decided to pursue the late-blooming McDonogh recruit. Cornerback-less so far in 2014, the Terps recently began recruiting Woods and offered him a scholarship during his campus visit Nov. 14.
And four days after receiving the offer from head coach Randy Edsall, and following a thorough discussion with his parents and coaches, Woods joined lineman Jared Cohen as the second McDonogh player to commit to Maryland this year.
"I had a chance to talk to my mom, research more about the school and we came to the decision UMD was the place for me," Woods said. "Ultimately school comes first, and if something were to happen to me on the field, I wouldn't want to compromise my career.
"First I called Coach [Keith] Dudzinksi and he said his weekend was great because they just beat Virginia Tech, and now his Monday is great because I'm a Terp. After that I talked to Coach Edsall and he said he's excited about the next four years at UMD and thinks I can be a great player."
Said head coach Dom Damico: "In my opinion, if you're in this state and have I-A talent, you should always give Maryland a chance to recruit you. It's always great to look at your hometown school. It's always a good idea to give the in-state school a chance."
Though Woods mentioned that a Terps offer would all but end his recruitment, the latest trip to College Park ended any doubts he may have harbored. He said the trip was eye opening and gave him great insight into the current state of the program and its future heading into the Big Ten.
Woods not only took in part of a Terps practice, but he spoke to defensive coordinator Brian Stewart about how he'd fit in, Edsall about the benefits of a Maryland education, his recruiter Keith Dudzinksi and several current Terps.
"I talked to all the coaches, Coach [Keith] Dudzinski, Coach [Brian] Stewart, Coach Edsal, the strength coach," said Woods, who also held an offer from Virginia. "I was asking them questions, just getting a feel for the place. I was getting into the routine for a student-athlete. It's going to be hard work, but they think I can rise to the challenge. … Then I talked to guys like JJ [Johnson], Roman said hi, a few other DBs. They were all really cool."
During his one-on-one conversation with Edsall, Woods said the Terps' headman pulled him aside and asked him what he thought about Maryland, what classes he was taking and what made him a standout defensive back.
"Coach was trying to get a feel for the kind of person I was. He saw me on tape, the kind of person I was in school, my grades … but he had never met me before," Woods said. "He told me when he was back at Connecticut there was a recruit who played varsity football one year – he played soccer the other years – and he had kind of my same build, came out for the team and ended up playing corner and going to the League."
But while the coaches' messages certainly resonated, it was a future Terp that did plenty of legwork in securing Woods. Indeed the Terps' staff should thank Cohen for helping haul in his teammate. Woods said the big lineman always talks up the Terps and even encouraged the McDonogh players to attend games and send the coaches their film. Woods heeded Cohen's plea and took in a couple games this year, in addition to attending an open house and a camp.
"He was just telling me the coaches are great guys. He kept saying, 'Don't you want to board with me? Be my roommate?'" Woods said. "He was just telling me he thinks I can do it. Thirteen weeks ago I was looking at D-3 schools ... [Cohen] said keep working hard, you can do it…and Jared was one of the first people I told after coach Dom. He gave me a big hug and during our next class we were just smiling at each other."
Woods will be returning to College Park with Cohen this weekend in order to check out the Maryland-Boston College game. He said he's especially excited now that he's a member of the Terps family.
"Really excited. Definitely cheering for the team is going to be great," Woods said. "Even though we aren't on the team yet, it's still Terp family. Hopefully they finish the season strong."
As aforementioned, Maryland's renowned communications program was also a major selling point for Woods. A solid 3.0 student who actually entered McDonogh on an academic scholarship, Woods said he wants to major in sports journalism and wouldn't mind working for ESPN one day.
"[Edsall] was saying how good the communications program is, and the broadcast program too," Woods said. "He was saying how one of the guys who work on Around the Horn teaches in the department. … and then Scott Van Pelt, guys like that. That's what I want to do."
Woods projects as a cornerback at Maryland, but he's primarily a receiver at McDonogh. In fact, he didn't start on defense until the Eagles' No. 2 receiver went down with a concussion and Woods stepped into his spot during Week 8. The converted corner did so well, though, that head coach Dom Damico allowed him to stick at defense even when Woods' concussed teammate returned, in effect Wally Pipp-ing him.
"Josh has turned into one of our best skill players at corner and receiver. We really consider him a late bloomer after being injured all his junior year," Damico said. "He's very explosive, very athletic and he's physically gifted. As a corner he's a long, physical presence and he can go get the football. He has a lot of potential, a lot of upside."
Woods finished the year with four interceptions and 14 tackles, in addition to hauling in 33 passes for 780 yards and 10 touchdowns. It was quite an impressive campaign, especially after breaking his scapula during his junior year and coming back strong less than a season later.
"I play the ball in the air like a wide receiver…and big corners are in," Woods said. "Coach Edsall said he likes my footwork, but he could tell I don't know much about corner yet (laughs). But they like my athleticism. [This offseason] I'll work on my footwork, just getting my technique down, just working hard to get as prepared as possible because I'm still learning the position. I'll probably redshirt my first year and then I'll definitely be ready after that."
If all goes according to plan, Woods should have quite a successful college career, both on and off the field. Needless to say, he's setting his sights high.
"I definitely don't want to just coast by. I think I can be one of the best people in the classroom there," Woods said. "On the football field, if I work hard, there's no telling what I can do there.
"[Terps fans], just be ready for J-Dub. He's coming. Go Terps."
Woods Thrilled to Join Terps Family
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