Leaps and bounds: After adjusting to college, Bemidji High grad Woods ready to step up for NDSU football
FARGO -- Measuring the growth in the one year since Carey Woods walked onto a North Dakota State football field would take more than figuring out how many footballs he's caught. Take the entire concept of college into account, the freshman from Bemidji said he's starting to figure everything out.
That includes the academic side, which he said took some getting used to.
"Time management was the big thing," said Woods, saying his academic adviser played a big role. "But I got better and better as the year went on. You have to understand that you have to put your sport and your schoolwork together and you have to learn how to do that."
On the field, his learning curve appears to be escalating. It started with a good final week of spring football and he's to the point now where he may play a role in the season opener at Kansas State.
There's no questioning the starters. NDSU returns Ryan Smith, Zach Vraa, Trevor Gebhart and Nate Moody as established receivers. The team lost Andrew Okland from last year when he decided to give up the game, but receivers coach Kenni Burns said Woods and fellow freshmen Demitrius Gray, Eric Perkins and Tyler Wrice could figure into the plans.
Wrice is a true freshman from Papillion, Neb., near Omaha, who is making a bid to play right away. Woods appears to be the front-runner in the freshman group.
"I think he's similar to what Andrew Okland was last year at this time of the year," Burns said.
The 6-foot, 190-pound Woods caught 73 passes his senior year at Bemidji, helping the Lumberjacks make it to the Class 4A state title game. He was also a college basketball recruit, which appears to be helping him at NDSU. Like Vraa, he's not afraid to use his leaping ability to go get a ball in traffic.
"He has a lot of big-play potential," Burns said.
Woods admits he wasn't sure what he was getting himself into when he enrolled last fall. He called his freshman year "a big learning process."
"I needed to mature a lot and we all figured that out last year," he said. "I needed that year and it also made me bigger, faster and stronger than I was when I came in."
Smith led the team with 49 receptions last year. Vraa had 44, Gebhart 34 and Moody 18. The offense wouldn't mind finding somebody else who has the ability to go deep.
Woods will apparently get first crack.
"It's more pressure of course but it feels a lot better to have a chance to go out there and play," he said.
Jeff Kolpack covers North Dakota State football for the Forum of Fargo-Moorhead.