Woods' stock on rise as senior WR for West Virginia

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- He says all the right things.

And so far, J.D. Woods has flashed all the right moves on the football field.

He certainly has had plenty of time to get here.

Woods, a senior, grabbed the reins of his career at West Virginia this preseason and landed a starting role at wide receiver in an offense than can make stars of its playmakers.

He got here, Woods said this week, because something finally clicked.

"That click was reality. It's my senior season. It's time to make some plays and contribute to West Virginia football," he said.

Woods' debut against Marshall merited recognition. He caught seven passes for 75 yards, scored a touchdown, and, most important, gained faith from the coaching staff.

"It makes you happy. You sit there and you give kids opportunities. You give kids opportunities," said offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson. "At some point, you'd like to see 'em take advantage of those opportunities. If the light doesn't go off when you're a senior, the light's not going to go off.

"So having it [come together] his last year probably had a lot to do with him saying 'I've either got to do it now or it's never going to happen.' "

That faith wasn't always there.

Things were not looking good this summer for Woods, who was relegated to the scout team when academic problems threatened his eligibility. Eventually he, along with a small group of other players, was in the clear -- something coach Dana Holgorsen referred to as "the first miracle of the season."

"I don't mind talking about him now. I did mind for a while," said Holgorsen. "He is just doing everything right. He's even going to class. He brings us a ton of energy. His demeanor in the locker room, in practice, in the weight room and in study hall has changed for the better.

"It's fun to watch a kid to look at his senior year and say 'I better get my stuff together here because it is about over for me.' He has taken advantage of being a senior. He is playing well. We are going to throw it to him."

Dawson said Woods always has had the talent.

"He's been a talented kid since I got here. It takes a lot more to be a consistent player," said Dawson. "There's a lot of talented kids who don't play. You've got to play within the structure of your team, the offense, and be upheld to every level of accountability that every other kid is held to. Until kids start doing that, they're not going to get an opportunity."

Woods won't look back or explain specifically what held him back. Instead, he has chosen to move forward.

That focus is what quarterback Geno Smith has seen.

Smith arrived on campus with Woods four years ago. The two were on the second team together that season and bonded.

"He's always had talent. He can run well. He catches the ball well. I think for him he lacked the focus all the time," said Smith.

"I've seen something in him. I think the thing that's changed is he's dialed in."

Woods said he has matured in his years as a Mountaineer, even in a span of weeks when his career was threatened.

"I think it's maturity level. From a month ago, I've matured," said Woods. "The lesson is always be the leader you knew you could be.

"Continue to be a leader. Continue to set an example for the young guys."

As for a special season?

"Stay tuned," said Woods. "I tell everybody, just stay tuned."


Jenn Menendez: jmenendez@post-gazette.com and Twitter @JennMenendez.


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