– Entering the 2012 season, many view USC’s Robert Woods as one of the top receiver prospects in the draft. He had the size, speed and route running ability to make big plays but none of that quite came to a fruition in what was a frustrating season in general in the land of Troy.
– Woods still possesses the physical skills to be a top wideout in this year’s draft but he’ll have to answer some off the field and attitude questions as well after an incident in which he criticized USC coach Lane Kiffin for not getting him the ball enough.
– Here’s what Woods had to say to a variety of questions from the assembled media here.
What separates you from the other receivers?
“I think my experience — I’ve been doing it for three years now. I’d say my knowledge of the game — I know every position — my route-running ability, and my hands.”
Is there a way to prepare for the combine?
“Somewhat. Not much of the medical part of it, but once we hit the field, we’ve been training for eight or nine weeks now. Just a lot of speedwork, a lot of strength and conditioning. So we’re definitely ready for that part of it, and mock interviews. But it’s not the same as being in a room with 10 coaches firing questions at you.
How did that go?
“A little bit different from each one. I sat in a room with the Bills, and it was about 10 coaches in there, one coach pulling up film, grilling me on some plays, some plays he liked. I went to the 49ers room, and it was just Coach Harbaugh in there. It was laid-back; he asked me a couple of questions, asked me why I didn’t go to Stanford coming out. I also sat in with the Raiders. That was a lot more boardwork, sitting there with a previous coach of mine, Ted Gilmore. Each coach and each team has been different so far.”
Any USC guys you reached out to for guidance?
“I actually went to USC on Tuesday, just to meet up with some friends before I left, and I happened to see Rhett Ellison coming by. He was just asking me, when do I leave, and he was just telling me, ‘Enjoy the moment. It’s only going to happen one time in your life. It’s going to be crazy — everybody’s going to be pulling you this way, pulling you that way. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Enjoy the moment and have fun. Enjoy meeting everybody you watched on TV.”
Who do you compare your game to?
“I would say Reggie Wayne. He’s smaller, one type of receiver. He’s not like a Calvin Johnson or Larry Fitzgerald, but he’s making plays all around the field, and I can see myself similar to him.”
Where do you want to play in an offense?
“Wherever, really. I just want to be a big impact to a team, whether it’s short passes, deep passes, or just even a few catches every now and then for a first down. Whatever role a team wants me to play, I’ll enjoy playing and make the best out of whatever opportunity I do get.”
Why do you think so many wide receivers have made a big impact right away?
“One, they’re probably not really scouted, I guess, early on, but once they make big plays and make a name for themselves, it can possibly change. I’d probably say they’re running around, making plays, just because they’re fresh and still young and exciting. That’s how I feel when I come in. I want to be running around the whole field making plays everywhere, down the field, short passes, wherever I can.”
What do you bring to the table?
“My speed, my route-running ability, and just my knowledge of the game. I feel like if I know the playbook early and study, I can come in right away and make an impact.”
Can you imagine a better way to make a living?
“This is what I’ve always wanted to do. I was training with Cordarelle Patterson, working out one day, and we were like, ‘Wow. This is work. This is our job.’ It’s really an honor to get paid and allowed to do something that I enjoy, that I love doing, wouldn’t mind putting in extra work for. That’s what I love. I love playing football, and I guess this is the time to get rewarded at the top level.”
What went wrong at USC this year?
“We had a rough year. We all kept thinking positive, after every loss. We still had faith in our team that we could still get to a bowl game and win every game. Our whole thing was, ‘OK, let’s just win the last four or the last three.’ Unfortunately, we lost them at the end, but we still had a positive outlook.”
What went into your frustration about not getting the ball?
“I would say that whole phrase in that interview got mis-worded. I had said that if Coach Kiffin’s game plan was to get me to come back, then he probably would have got me the ball more. But his game plan wasn’t to get me the ball; his game plan was to win football games, and he did that.”
Have a lot of these coaches asked you about it?
“No, they haven’t.”
How would you characterize Matt Barkley’s arm? It’s been criticized as not NFL-caliber.
“Right. That has been said about Matt Barkley, but I played with him for three years. Very confident in his arm. He’s made a lot of great throws under pressure, under duress. I feel like he’s still capable of making NFL throws. Some may say his arm is not strong enough, but the ball is right on point, every single time.”
How do you compensate for not being the biggest or fastest guy?
“My quickness to get in and out of my breaks at the top of my routes. My high school coach always told me, ‘One, two,’ which is, ‘At the top of your routes, get out in two steps.’ In high school, it seemed impossible. We were taking like three or four steps. But in my head, I still think, ‘One, two.’ And that allowed me to get out of my breaks a lot quicker. My hands, I would say, are a strength, looking the ball in. I caught a lot of passes, so that helps me as well. And my third strength, I guess, track background, with the speed and the quickness into my breaks. That allows me to stop on a dime, and I think that helps me as well.”
Did other players leaving USC impact your decision?
“Not at all. It didn’t have any impact on me. I mean, everybody is their own individual person. I made my decision based on me, not based on any other players from USC.”
– With the possible exception of Tennessee’s Cordarrelle Patterson, no receiver has been able to separate from the pack here. Woods could move up the list with a strong workout and by doing well in interviews. The Rams have a need for play makers and Woods’ ability to line up anywhere and make plays could make him an intriguing option. That likely wouldn’t happen until the second round but Woods could do enough to take himself out of the second-round conversation and sneak into the first round.
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