With two months to go until the start of fall camp, we're going to count down our 30 most important UCLA players for the 2016 season. These are the players we think are going to have the most significant impact for UCLA this year, so don't take this to mean that these are the players we think are the best long-term prospects, or even necessarily the most talented. Every BRO staffer has ranked his top 30 UCLA players, and from that we've drawn an aggregate list.
Today we'll continue with No. 28.
28. Josh Woods, Sophomore Outside Linebacker
2015 Statistics: 4 tackles (1 game of action)
2014 Statistics (high school): 92 tackles, 11 sacks, 2 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles
Why He's Important: We're going out on a bit of a limb with this pick, since Woods only played part of one game last year before suffering a season-ending injury. As it stands, Woods is slotted to back up at weak-side linebacker, which just so happens to be the same position that Jayon Brown plays, and Brown might be the most important player on the defense. So, it's completely uncertain at this point exactly how much Woods will play this year.
Given what we saw of him this spring, though, and given the way he's developed physically over the last year, his upside is tremendous enough that we almost have to take a flyer on him getting serious playing time this year. He has filled out a lot since getting hurt last year, and told us that he was about 235 pounds this spring, and looking to gain more. He was already one of the better athletes on the defense as a true freshman, and gaining the weight seems to have only added to that athleticism. No one on this team is Myles Jack, or particularly close, but if we had to pick a guy who comes closest to matching that combination of size, strength, and athleticism, we'd probably give the slight edge to Woods over guys like Mique Juarez.
The question becomes what position he'll end up playing this year. As we wrote above, he played mostly weak side linebacker this spring behind Brown, and that's the position he has focused on. That said, he played some Mike last year, and he told us he's learning the SAM spot as well, and we tend to think that's where he'll end up this year. This spring, Cameron Judge was first string at SAM and did a fine job, but that competition still seems like it's open, with Juarez, among others, vying for the spot. We could absolutely see a scenario where the coaching staff, impressed with Woods' athleticism this spring, decides to give him a chance to enter into the starting competition at SAM. His size could lend himself well to that side as well.
Woods showed last year in limited time that the game isn't too big for him -- he was actually pretty impressive for being effectively thrown into the fire with little notice. Given the way he's developed physically over the last year, we're very interested to see what he could do with increased snaps this season. If he comes close to realizing his immense upside this season, that could go a long way toward making UCLA's defense a much better unit in 2016.
What's Been Said About Him:
"Josh has been exceptional. We have to keep him healthy. The day he got hurt, he was having his best day as a Bruin. He was special that day. He has a bright future in this program." -- Scott White, April 11, 2016 (after Woods suffered a minor injury in spring ball)
Most Recent Interview:
Top 30 Most Important Bruins
|Rank||Name||Highest Rank||Lowest Rank|
|28||Josh Woods||23 (Blair Angulo)||Unranked (2-way tie)|
|29||Keisean Lucier-South||14 (Tracy Pierson)||Unranked (3-way tie)|
|30||Nate Meadors||20 (John Evergreen)||Unranked (2-way tie)|