College coach: Woods will wow 49ers

In his first two seasons as receivers coach at Oklahoma State, Todd Monken helped mold Rashaun Woods into a record-shattering receiver and one of the elite players in college football. Here, in an interview with SFI, Monken shares his impressions of Woods and the package of potential he brings to the 49ers.

SFI: From your perspective, what kind of player are the 49ers getting with their top pick in the draft?

Monken: He's an unbelievable route runner who won't take long to pick it up at that level. He'll study film and go on the field and try to put himself in a position to excel right away. He's able to be physical and use his body, and he has an uncanny ability of getting (defensive backs)' hips turned. And he is so good at going and getting the ball. He still has to improve on running after the catch, but whether or not he becomes a star in the NFL won't change what he did for us. He was a dominant player.

SFI: Just how dominant a player was Rashaun at the college level?

Monken: When the 49ers get him out on the field, they'll be like, 'Wow!' The thing is, you have to appreciate what the guy did for us week in and week out. He went against some great (defensive backs) who are in the NFL now and he beat those guys. In terms of route running, getting open and turning DBs, there's nobody more disciplined than Rashaun. I'm excited for him that he'll have the opportunity to show that in San Francisco.

SFI: What is his personality off the field?

Monken: He's not real vocal. He's kind of introverted. Does he like being where the microphone is in his face? No. Rashaun doesn't talk much. What he does is lead by example. You've got to really know him and get in his comfort zone to see him open up. That's nothing negative against him. He's just a real sensitive guy who takes things to heart. He's not a comedian. He's not one to shoot the (bull) and just hang out. He's more the type to let the other guy tell the story, but he's listening and he'll laugh and add to it. But he doesn't hold court.

SFI: What qualities set Rashaun apart from some of the other great receivers you have coached and competed against?

Monken: I've coached better guys with the ball in their hands. But everything else Rashaun does, he does it better than anybody else I've ever coached. I mean, really nice size, great hands, great savvy for the game. He gets in and out of cuts, he's physical, he loves watching tapes and transferring it to the game. He's a savvy, big-time player who doesn't shrink in big games. He's going to have to prove he's good with the ball in his hands, but with everything else, he's the best I've ever been around.

SFI: That said, do you feel he was somewhat overlooked in the draft, being just the seventh receiver selected?

Monken: I don't think he was overlooked. He's going to be very productive for many years. I think there's concern that people believe he's a No. 2 (NFL) receiver. The whole thing was who believes he can be a No. 1. Rashaun worked a bunch this year to improve his game. He's going to challenge to be a No. 1 guy.

SFI: What's the most amazing thing you've ever seen Rashaun do? Was it his seven-touchdown game against Southern Methodist?

Monken: No, that was just Rashaun getting himself open and going to get the ball against inferior players. It had to be against Baylor this year, when Rashaun ran a slant-and-go. The wind was crazy that day, really swirling, and I was on the sidelines and could have sworn a (pass) was going to be five yards out of bounds. He reeled it in with one hand. That's the greatest catch I've ever seen. Rashaun's like one of those guys in basketball who gets the dunk and the foul.

SFI: Since he didn't declare for the draft after a standout junior season, what improvements did you see in his game as a senior?

Monken: I thought he was more physical and he got better with the ball in his hands. I think he just matured and practiced harder. I don't think a year ago he was mentally ready (for the NFL). He was still a kid. He's a man now.

SFI: Is his game refined enough and his skill level high enough that he can step in and start right away with the 49ers?

Monken: I'd be stunned if he's not a starter.

SFI: What level of performance do you expect Rashaun ultimately will attain at the NFL level?

Monken: He's such a good route runner that he'll never be anything worse than a damn good player. He was a tremendous player for us here who really helped resurrect our program. To me, the whole thing is, if he gets better and gets yards after the catch, he can be a great player. All the other stuff, he's already a great player. That's why he got drafted so high. There's other tall guys that can run well, you know. But they can't do all the things Rashaun Woods can do.


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