30 Key Trojans: #8 Antwaun Woods

Our countdown of the 30 key Trojans for 2015 continues with the heart of the defensive line, nose tackle Antwaun Woods.

We continue to get closer and closer to opening kickoff and the beginning of the 2015 USC football season. Steve Sarkisian released the first depth chart earlier tonight, letting the players and fans know where the current roster lies and which players are going to be starting on Saturday against Arkansas State should things remain the same.

We also continue our countdown of the 30 USC players most important to the Trojans’ success this season with one of those players in the trenches. This list is not the 30 most talented players or the 30 players that will put up the best stats, but instead the guys that could propel USC to a successful season.

Which players’ success is key for the Trojans’ season to be a success?

8. Antwaun Woods - Redshirt Senior

No Leonard Williams, no problem?

At least from a leadership standpoint that is the case for the defensive line this season. Antwaun Woods has stepped into that role seamlessly as a fifth-year senior and second-year full-time starter at the nose tackle position.

Woods won’t put up numbers like Williams, but that’s not what he’s being asked to do. His task is to be the Trojans’ space eater in the middle of the line. Defensive line coach Chris Wilson needs him to take on double teams to help free up other lineman and the linebackers behind him to attack downhill and be able to get into running lanes to meet rushers at the line of scrimmage rather than four or five yards past it.

That’s exactly what Woods was doing last season during Holiday Bowl preparations for Nebraska when he tore his left pectoral muscle. While taking on a double team, he tried to overpower and throw an offensive lineman with his left arm and his arm got pulled too far back. The injury forced Woods to miss the Holiday Bowl appearance and the entirety of spring practice, but he has returned to the field this fall and says the injury is “100 percent healed.”

While not being able to participate, Woods wasn’t away from the football field. He continued to coach up the less experienced linemen and worked to make his teammates better around him by providing his insights. That was part of the reason why Woods was named one of the Trojans’ five captains this year, something he called a “dream come true” since he grew up down the street from the Coliseum in Baldwin Village.

Woods began his high school career at Los Angeles (Calif.) Dorsey, but his father sent him to Woodland Hills (Calif.) Taft where Woods became a four-star defensive tackle prospect and eventually a high school All-American. The 6-foot-1, 320-pounder redshirted his first year on campus, but has been an important part of the defensive line rotation ever since.

His redshirt freshman season Woods played in all 13 games, starting the first four games at nose tackle. For the year, he totaled 16 tackles, including 4.5 for loss with three of those being sacks. His sophomore campaign, he had 19 tackles with one sack and added a deflection while appearing in all 13 games and starting seven.

His breakout campaign last year saw him nearly double his production with 37 tackles, one sack and one deflection in 12 games (10 starts). He set and tied a career high with six tackles against Utah (when he also had a deflection) and UCLA. Woods is currently questionable for the season opener against Arkansas State with a dinged shoulder, but expect him to have a big impact in the middle of the line throughout the season even when he’s not making a bunch of tackles.

SOUNDING OFF:

“He’s getting a lot stronger off the line. He’s going to come and have a ginormous year at the nose position. I’m confident in our d-line.” — USC linebacker Su’a Cravens

PERSONAL SEASON GOAL:

"To beat Arkansas State Game 1 and then take it one game at a time." — Antwaun Woods

EXPERTS TAKE:

“You know you've got a natural leader on your hands when you have someone like Antwaun, unable to play in the spring and do the full winter and summer workouts, and he's the clear go-to guy and the voice the players are listening to.

Not that he's working hard at being that guy, it's just who he is. If he can get healthy, and stay there, he'll be a key guy in his final season at USC. And someone his teammates will be rooting for." — Dan Weber, USCfootball.com

VIDEO INTERVIEW:

Keely Eure checked in with Antwaun Woods during the summer to see how his recovery had gone and also chatted about his new leadership role:

RankPlayerTotal PointsHighLow
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8Antwaun Woods1257 (Ryan Abraham)17 (Dan Weber)
9Justin Davis1246 (Austin Geller)16 (Shotgun Spratling)
10Lamar Dawson121 pts2 (Shotgun Spratling)17 (Keely Eure)
11Steven Mitchell Jr.120 pts8 (Shotgun Spratling)13 (Dan & Ryan)
12Claude Pelon109 pts9 (Dan Weber)17 (Austin Geller)
13Tre Madden98 pts6 (Dan Weber)Not listed (Shotgun Spratling)
14Chad Wheeler92 pts6 (Keely Eure)Not listed (Shotgun Spratling)
15Iman Marshall86 pts11 (Ryan Abraham)25 (Shotgun Spratling)
16Delvon Simmons84 pts1 (Shotgun Spratling)28 (Gerard Martinez)
17Jabari Ruffin79 pts12 (Dan Weber)25 (Ryan Abraham)
18Anthony Sarao77 pts13 (Keely Eure)26 (Austin Geller)
19Zach Banner72 pts12 (Shotgun Sprating)Not listed (Austin Geller)
20John Plattenburg68 pts15 (Keely Eure)29 (Austin Geller)
21Damien Mama49 pts18 (Gerard Martinez)27 (DanWeber)
22Connor Spears44 pts13 (Austin Geller)Not listed (Twice)
23Max Browne43 pts19 (Twice)Not listed (Shotgun Spratling)
24Leon McQuay III40 pts17 (Ryan Abraham)Not listed (Twice)
25Osa Masina39 pts15 (Gerard Martinez)Not listed (Keely Eure)
26Darreus Rogers36 pts19 (Shotgun Spratling)Not listed (Dan Weber)
27Matt Boermeester35 pts18 (Dan Weber)Not listed (Twice)
28Chris Hawkins34 pts21 (Twice)Not listed (Twice)
29Viane Talamaivao23 pts22 (Keely Eure)Not listed (Three times)
30Ykili Ross21 pts22 (Austin Geller)Not listed (Twice)

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