Wooden Trying to Hold Down Starting Spot

Junior Ambrose Wooden saw little action at corner in 2004 but was a regular on special teams. He played in a total of nine games making 42 appearances on special teams and recorded five tackles. The 6-0, 195-pound former wide receiver was moved to cornerback before the 2004 season. He was withheld from contact in the spring due to an injury from which he has since recovered. Irish Eyes spoke with Wooden following a recent practice to find out how his switch to corner has been progressing.

The Irish practices have picked up the pace and Ambrose Wooden smiled when asked to comment on this day's practice.

"It was great, but we did get a little sloppy, but I think we accepted the challenge and played well," Wooden said. "We had some mistakes but we build on those. We have a young group back there in the secondary so we are trying to come closer and be ready come September 3rd."

Wooden's injury in the spring kept him on the sidelines and put him behind the other cornerbacks at the beginning of fall camp.

"It was big. I came in at the bottom of the depth chart, and that's what I expected because I was coming off an injury and I had to work my way back, and now I'm starting,"said Wooden about battling back from his injury. "So I have to keep working and listening to coach Lewis because he knows his stuff. I have to keep listening to him and do what he tells me to do, and obviously it is working so far.

"I'm currently running with the first team and everything is fast-paced. I'm getting good work against the best receivers, Rhema (McKnight]) Mo (Maurice Stovall) and (Jeff) Samardzija , and all those guys. They beat me every now and then but coach Lewis is teaching me what I'm doing wrong such as looking the wrong ways, eyes in the backfield, and stuff like that. I'm enjoying it so far and loving it."

We asked Wooden when he learned he had been moved to No. 1 and if this gives him more confidence and a leg up on the others for playing time.

"I just learned that a couple of days ago, but nothing is set in stone," he said. "At this point I'm just running with the No. 1s but who knows what can happen two weeks from now. So I'm just going to keep working hard and hopefully come out on top. I might come out one day and have a bad day and the guy behind me might have a great day and come in the next day and things are switched up so nothing is set in stone.

"It definitely gives me a little more confidence, but I think being at the bottom has taught me a lesson that you gotta work to get where you want to be. So I think that is one of the biggest things I have learned in this camp is that you have to work hard and everything will settle itself."

"There's a lot of competition," Wooden continued. "Everyone is young and nothing is set in stone. The only starter we have is (Tom) Zbikowski . (Mike) Richardson has played a lot, but as far as the corners, nothing is set in stone. There's a big competition out there fighting for the spots."

The Maryland native says there's also a lot of competition with the guys on the opposite side of the ball and he likes the opportunity to challenge the Irish receivers in practice.

"One-on-one is intense," he said. "You know they are going to come after us, and we are trying to get better, and they are trying to get better, and we are playing against some of the top receivers in the country every day and I love it."

The former Super Prep All-American said making the transition to the defensive side of the ball hasn't been easy.

"I'm feeling comfortable. It took me some time, of course, to get used to it," Wooden said. "I had to get more aggressive tackling and all that stuff. But coming into this season, I have to have a little attitude on my part and come in and make plays. I haven't played offense, and that is fine with me. I just want to play and contribute wherever I can."

The coaching of Bill Lewis has also impressed Wooden and he has high praise for his defensive mentor.

"He's great. He knows everything," Wooden said of Lewis. "If he tells us something is going to come, it comes and you just have to be ready for it. If I make a mistake here and there he coaches so well that he can make everything more clear in my head what I have to do, so next time I don't make that same mistake.

"At this point I think he has prepared me well personally, and it is starting to show throughout the young guys and even the older guys. His impact is starting to show and we are making plays and everything, and we just have to keep listening to him. I'm glad he is here."

The junior is looking forward to season-opener against Pitt, which is just around the corner, and he's hoping to see a lot of action in the game.

"I'm excited; it is like my first real big game, and I'm going to play a major role," Wooden said. "I just have to keep working hard and getting better. I just want to do whatever I can to help us win."

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