Woodson, Pulley make giant strides over summer
Issue date: 9/1/06 Section: Pigskin Preview
Both mentally and physically, the junior quarterback says his game has improved significantly.
He's not the only one.
"He's a totally different guy right now than he was then (freshman year)," said head coach Rich Brooks. "He's just approaching things a little bit differently mentally, and I think he understands our passing game and the offense much better than he did at any time last year."
Woodson began his transformation in the spring when sophomore Curtis Pulley made a charge for the starting spot. Pulley impressed the coaching staff enough to leave camp with the lead.
That's when Woodson got serious.
"It was an eye-opener, obviously," said Woodson, the starter at quarterback in all 11 games last season. "At first I didn't take it very well."
After the initial impact of the switch, Woodson became more active in the weight room, reshaping his body. He also took charge on the practice field, leading and organizing the team during summer workout sessions.
Once all of his hard work was done, rumors swirled that one of the quarterback had taken a slight lead going into fall camp.
By all indications, it was Woodson.
"It's all about how serious you're going to take this, and I've taken it to a different place," he said. "Right now I'm trying to push myself as hard as I can."
Along with having to improve as a leader, Woodson has had to cut down on the mistakes, head coach Rich Brooks said.
To better prepare Woodson, Brooks allowed the defense to hit Woodson in fall camp, a change from last year.
"I'm looking for as few negative plays as possible," Brooks said. "That means not taking a sack when you don't have to take a sack, not fumbling the ball, not throwing a lot of interceptions."
Pulley played well enough in the fall to stretch the decision until this week. Woodson's stats last year - a 57.7 completion percentage, 1,644 yards and six touchdowns - dwarfed Pulley's numbers, but quarterbacks coach Randy Sanders said Pulley was in the competition because of his running ability and improved passing.
"The athleticism he brings to it is obviously positive," Sanders said. "He's got to continue developing and understanding what the offense is trying to accomplish each play."
Pulley said he opened the door for a quarterback controversy by maturing considerably between his freshman and sophomore years.
"I'm a whole lot better passer, and a more focused person on the field," Pulley said. "I'm more into the game and have a better grasp of the playbook. Now I won't be limited to doing certain things; I can do the whole offense."
Sanders added that the tight competition forced both players to get better.
"The great thing about competition is, you have to go out and work and improve yourself everyday on the practice field," Sanders said. "As a coach, that's the greatest thing you can have is competition, because guys get better every day."
When Rich Brooks named Woodson as the starting quarterback for the Louisville game, he said Pulley would see action at the position throughout the season.
Offensive coordinator Joker Phillips said that under that scenario, he is confident that both quarterbacks can perform on the field.
"I think we are in a position that we can be pretty good at quarterback regardless of who the quarterback is," Phillips said.
But for now, it's Woodson.
A much different Woodson.
"This off-season, I've done wonders in stepping my game up," Woodson said. "I feel like I've gone up a few levels."