Woods Has New Lease on Playing-Life

Senior linebacker Pierre Woods didn't perform the way he would have liked in 2004. Now after a strong offseason of conditioning and a new appreciation for playing college football, he is looking for things to go differently in 2005.

The 2004 season is one that that Michigan senior linebacker/defensive lineman Pierre Woods finds rather forgetful. Like most other Wolverines, he is happy that the team won its second consecutive Big Ten Title and made a return trip to the Rose Bowl. However, his individual performance last season wasn't quite what he expected it to be. After a breakout sophomore campaign in 2003, where he notched a career best 68 tackles, led the team both in tackles for loss (14) and sacks (7), and was named second team All Big Ten, many predicted that Woods would become an All-American in 2004. That, however, did not come to pass. The former Cleveland Glenville standout went from starting 13 games in 2003 to just four in 2004. Furthermore, his total number tackles (22), tackles for loss (2), and sacks (0) all took a major dip.

Now that his final season in the Maize and Blue is upon him, Woods is choosing not to dwell on the disappointment of last year. All of his focus is aimed straight ahead and on his own personal re-birth. "Last year is last year," Woods said. "I've moved on from that. I'm leaving it all behind me. It made me realize that nothing is given. You've got to take it. Anything you want, you've got to go take. You've got to be hungry. No, forget hungry…you've got to be starving! I'm starving."

The adversity that Woods faced in the last year has made him much more appreciative of the opportunity he has to play college football. That is something he promises will come through in his play on the field. "I want to be out here," said Woods. "I think I'm happier to be back here than anybody else on this doggoned team. Some guys may take this for granted. For some guys, this may be their livelihood. For me, it's not my livelihood because I'm going to get my degree in December, but this is what I love to do. This is my passion and my desire. This is my burning desire in my heart. I know what I was sent here for. Some people may say that my career hasn't panned out to what they thought it would be, but I can't worry about what nobody else says. I've got to worry about how I feel, what my coaches say, and the things I need to take care of. I'm just ready to come out here and give my all. Whatever they want me to do, I'm going to do. I'm going to keep working out, working hard, and dedicating myself to the things I need to do as an individual and also as a team player. It's just time to ball!"

Woods' athletic ability makes him one of Michigan's more versatile players. For that reason, the position he'll line up at most of the time isn't yet determined. That uncertainty, however, doesn't matter much to this talented Ohio native. "I'm not sure what position I'll be playing," Woods said. "I practiced with the linebackers and I practiced with the D-line. Whatever position they want me to play, I'm going to play it…and I'm going to try to go above and beyond at that position. Special teams are first, though, because that's what starts the game off. I'm just going to go out there, have fun, and enjoy it. This is my last go round. It's all or nothing. I ain't got nothing to lose."

Should Woods move back to defensive end, the prospect of working again with new defensive line coach Steve Stripling is one that he finds very appealing. "Coach Strip is a blessing for me, a lot of other guys, and this program period," Woods said. "He comes with a different philosophy. He wants sacks! That's good. I'm not saying that nobody else has ever said that. It's just the things that we do in the defensive line now with all of the different techniques makes me believe that guys are going to get a lot more sacks this year. Some of the hand drills he teaches are going to help a lot. I was only with him for six practices this spring before I moved back to linebacker, but it was tremendous what I learned being with him. Hopefully I can learn more from him when I'm working out the line and more linebacker techniques when I'm at that spot."

Wherever Woods lines up this season, expect to see a smarter happier player. If he has his way, it will be a season to remember. "I've been watching film in the offseason and really learning the game," Woods said. "Not just watching…. learning! It's been great! I ain't got no complaints. I'm happy and I'm going to enjoy myself."

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