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.
“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
“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
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:
|8||Antwaun Woods||125||7 (Ryan Abraham)||17 (Dan Weber)|
|9||Justin Davis||124||6 (Austin Geller)||16 (Shotgun Spratling)|
|10||Lamar Dawson||121 pts||2 (Shotgun Spratling)||17 (Keely Eure)|
|11||Steven Mitchell Jr.||120 pts||8 (Shotgun Spratling)||13 (Dan & Ryan)|
|12||Claude Pelon||109 pts||9 (Dan Weber)||17 (Austin Geller)|
|13||Tre Madden||98 pts||6 (Dan Weber)||Not listed (Shotgun Spratling)|
|14||Chad Wheeler||92 pts||6 (Keely Eure)||Not listed (Shotgun Spratling)|
|15||Iman Marshall||86 pts||11 (Ryan Abraham)||25 (Shotgun Spratling)|
|16||Delvon Simmons||84 pts||1 (Shotgun Spratling)||28 (Gerard Martinez)|
|17||Jabari Ruffin||79 pts||12 (Dan Weber)||25 (Ryan Abraham)|
|18||Anthony Sarao||77 pts||13 (Keely Eure)||26 (Austin Geller)|
|19||Zach Banner||72 pts||12 (Shotgun Sprating)||Not listed (Austin Geller)|
|20||John Plattenburg||68 pts||15 (Keely Eure)||29 (Austin Geller)|
|21||Damien Mama||49 pts||18 (Gerard Martinez)||27 (DanWeber)|
|22||Connor Spears||44 pts||13 (Austin Geller)||Not listed (Twice)|
|23||Max Browne||43 pts||19 (Twice)||Not listed (Shotgun Spratling)|
|24||Leon McQuay III||40 pts||17 (Ryan Abraham)||Not listed (Twice)|
|25||Osa Masina||39 pts||15 (Gerard Martinez)||Not listed (Keely Eure)|
|26||Darreus Rogers||36 pts||19 (Shotgun Spratling)||Not listed (Dan Weber)|
|27||Matt Boermeester||35 pts||18 (Dan Weber)||Not listed (Twice)|
|28||Chris Hawkins||34 pts||21 (Twice)||Not listed (Twice)|
|29||Viane Talamaivao||23 pts||22 (Keely Eure)||Not listed (Three times)|
|30||Ykili Ross||21 pts||22 (Austin Geller)||Not listed (Twice)|