March 31, 2008

Rebels lead for hard-hitting safety

OLIVE BRANCH, Miss. _ Rod Woodson remembers the moment well.

His friend and teammate, cornerback Keshun Cowan, had intercepted a pass against Starkville and was in the midst of a return. Woodson, in an attempt to provide support for Cowan, zeroed in on a Starkville player and drilled him perfectly. The victim of Woodson's blow went airborne, his feet in line with Woodson's eyes before he fell on the turf in a heap.
"We call him 'The Human Bullet,'" Cowan said, laughing.

"I like to hit," Woodson said, smiling at Cowan's sharing of his nickname. "That's just what I like to do. I could play offense, too. I'm going to play running back this year. In the ninth grade, though, they moved me to defense and I just started liking it better."

That's good news for college coaches and bad news for Woodson's future opponents.

Woodson led the Conquistadors with 140 tackles last season, 16 more than teammate and Tennessee signee Marlon Walls. Woodson added 1.5 quarterback sacks and a pair of interceptions to his totals and has emerged as one of the top defensive prospects for the Class of 2009 in the Magnolia State.

"Rod's a combination of strength and speed and someone who just throws his body around more than any kid that I've had in 23 years, and I've had some pretty good players," Olive Branch coach Scott Samsel said. "He hits like a linebacker but he's got the agility to play like a defensive back."

Woodson has offers Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Auburn and Michigan.

"There's a bunch more out there that have said they're going to offer him," Samsel said.

Woodson has been to Oxford and Starkville for junior days and wants to take a trip to the Plains before making a decision. While flattered by the attention from the Wolverines, Woodson likely isn't headed to Big Ten country.

"It's too cold there," Woodson said. "I can't play that good in the cold."

Ole Miss is the early favorite for Woodson's services.

"I like staying close to home," Woodson said. "I get along with the coaches more. I have a good relationship with the coaches, how they are and how they are talking about how much they want me to come there. I like how they're talking."

Woodson spent this past Saturday at Ole Miss, watching the Rebels' scrimmage and touring the facilities.

"I liked it," Woodson said. "They showed us around. We watched film of them and watched them practice. I like their weight room. They have a lot of tutoring if you need help. I liked the coaches. I get along with them. They showed me their offices and the locker rooms."

"I visited with Coach Nix. I like him. He was talking to me about how they want me and they like how I hit and cover."

Woodson said Nix told him the Rebels covet him as a strong safety. Woodson said he will camp this summer at Ole Miss and perhaps at another school.

"Most colleges now use five- or six-DB packages and some of those guys in those packages have to be run-support guys and I see that being Rod's role," Samsel said.

Woodson is on track to qualify academically.

"He's well-mannered," Samsel said. "But he's very intense."

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