FAYETTEVILLE — Junior Mike Woods is having a very good junior season and is coming off an outstanding performance against Florida.
Woods is second on the team to Treylon Burks with 23 receptions for 413 yards and four touchdowns. That follows up a sophomore season where he caught 33 passes for 423 yards and four touchdowns.
“I’ve had a pretty good year I guess,” Woods said. “I mean, I probably have taken advantage of the opportunities I’ve had. Obviously it could be better. I’m still working every day. It’s like after I have a good game, I come back harder the next week. So I’m just trying to keep building.”
Woods has even impressed his teammate, talented redshirt freshman safety Jalen Catalon.
“Mike Woods, he works his hands really well, so if you try to press him he knows how to get off of press,” Catalon said. “Even if you play off coverage, he runs really good routes. He’s really a consistent route runner. What I mean by consistent, means you can’t tell what route he’s going to run. You just have to play it and react off of him. He’s not going to give you any indicators of what he does. I think also, his ability to go get the ball, I think that makes him more effective. I think he’s an all-around receiver. As a DB, it’s hard when you can’t really figure out a weakness with a guy, and that’s him. And I think that showed in the Florida game. He was able to go get the ball, and then he was also able to do something right after he caught it, too. Mike’s a great receiver.
“I’m glad I don’t have to go against him 100 snaps a game or something like that because he’s a tough guy to guard. He makes us better in practice each and every day, along with Treylon Burks, Trey Knox, Tyson Morris. People like that make us better each day as a DB group because we got against them every day. Mike Woods’ game is ridiculous. That catch he made against Florida, that was a phenomenal catch. But he’s doing good this year, too, and I’m just ready to see what he’s going to do for the rest of the season. He’s having a great year.”
Against Florida, Woods had two catches that went for 129 yards and two touchdowns. He had an 82-yard reception and one for 47 yards. While he had a big game against the Gators, senior wide receiver De’Vion Warren, and Woods’ roommate, suffered an ACL injury and is out for the season.
“Morale has been good,” Woods said. “Obviously it hurts to see De’Vion go down. But it’s next man up. It’s been that way all year. Like coming into the season with the whole virus situation, it was gonna be next man up regardless. I mean, our morale is pretty good. We feel pretty good. And T-Mo (Tyson Morris) and Trey Knox, those are the guys who are going to have to step up for us. Plain and simple it’s those two guys.”
Not having Warren will that change the game plan any?
“Like I said, it’s next man up,” Woods said. “We played a game without Treylon. We’ve played without people before. It’s just next man up. You should be practicing hard and preparing hard every week, so whenever you get your opportunity you should be able to fit right in and nothing change. That’s what it is. That’s how we operate at Arkansas. Next man up. You should be ready. You should’ve been taking it serious the whole time. So, when your number’s called you’ve got to be ready.”
Woods went into more detail about each of his two touchdown receptions against the Gators.
“No. 5 was the cornerback on the first one, second one was No. 25,” Woods said. ” I’m not really sure about the reads. I just know I had an option route, and I took to go route both times. I just won. I mean, I’m going to run every route to win. I have an option, I’m going to go deep every time anyway.”
On the 82-yard touchdown, Woods broke across the field. Why did you do that?
“I don’t know. I just caught the ball and I looked,” Woods said. “It looked like he had a little angle. I had to slow down to catch the ball. I mean, I’m just out there playing football. I don’t do too much thinking when I’m on the field. It just kind of happened. I saw him over the top and I just cut it back.”
The running game has started to click for Arkansas in recent games and that appears to be helping the passing game.
“Oh yeah, we got our running game rolling last week,” Woods said. “That’s a big factor for us. We need the run game to help out the passing game and we need the passing game to help out the running game. We can’t really have one doing bad while the other one’s, you know what I’m saying? We’ve got to have both of them doing their jobs.”
Woods talked about why he feels the running game is improving each week.
“O-line, they’ve been practicing hard every day,” Woods said. “That’s what it is. Like, we go into the game confident and prepared and that’s what’s going to happen. And obviously we’ve got Trelon Smith, Rakeem [Boyd], those guys back there toting that thing.”
Feleipe Franks has been one of the reasons for the passing game clicking so well this year. After a couple of years where the coaches ran quarterbacks in and out, Franks has solidified the position along with his coach, Kendal Briles.
“He’s a warrior,” Woods said. “He understands we need him, and he knows that we have his back. We know that he has our back. That’s just big to see our quarterback come back from suffering an injury, or whatever that was. It’s big for the team to see that, as well. One of our leaders coming back after injury and practicing hard and doing all the things he does every week.”
Behind him is KJ Jefferson, redshirt freshman, and Malik Hornsby who is a true freshman. How are they progressing in practice?
“I think they’re developing nicely,” Woods said. “KJ’s getting more accurate and arm strength. He’s been had the arm strength, but he’s been getting every day, learning the offense, just picking up on little things from Feleipe. Malik, he’s coming along too. Obviously he’s very fast and he can throw the ball too. But Feleipe has done a great job giving them tools and stuff like that they can use.”
Briles installed a tempo offense when he arrived at Arkansas. It has really gained stream in recent games. What is the reason for the improvement?
“Earlier in the year, we just weren’t clicking with everything like we are now,” Woods said. “Obviously, we didn’t get spring ball and stuff like that, so it was just different. New staff, new offense and it was just different coming into the year. Just had to get acclimated and now I feel like we’re clicking a little bit more. We’re used to the playbook, used to how Coach Briles is going to call things and stuff like that. Just as the year went on we keep getting better.”
Woods and the Hogs will face LSU on Saturday morning. It will be 21 days since LSU last played on Saturday. They had a bye and then the Alabama game was postponed.
“We’re not really too much worried about them and their break,” Woods said. “Obviously, it’s been a talking point. We’ve just got to go to work and worry about us. We need to know what they do on offense and defense. To me, I don’t really care how long they’ve been off, but I do care about watching the film and picking up on the stuff that they do.”
Woods talked about LSU’s secondary and what he has seen from it.
“They’ve got a great secondary,” Woods said. “Probably going to be one of the best secondaries we play. Obviously they’ve got Derek Stingley. They’ve got a true freshman corner that’s really long and real athletic. Their safeties are both good and physical. I mean, it’s the SEC. Every week we go against talented players. Every single week. Just got to prepare and practice and go into the game confident and get ready.”
Arkansas and LSU will kickoff at 11 a.m. on Saturday in Reynolds Razorback Stadium. The game will be televised on the SEC Network.