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The most important person vs. Cal: Jahad Woods

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It’s a lot to ask of a redshirt freshman playing just this third full game but WSU needs him for tomorrow and beyond.

NCAA Football: Southern California at Washington State James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

The price of greatness is responsibility.

-Winston Churchill

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One of the draw backs to Mike Leach’s refusal to talk injuries is broadcasters, prognosticators, fans, etc. often don’t know what issues the Cougs are dealing with. The narrative during and after the USC upset seemed to be that the Cougs won, in some part, thanks to numerous injuries the Trojans suffered.

That, of course, ignores the fact that Nnamdi Oguayo didn’t play at all, Peyton Pelluer had been lost for the season already, and Isaac Dotson got dinged up again. Three defensive starters, all injured before or during the game ... but you don’t hear about it because Leach doesn’t talk about injuries.

Before the season, we worried a lot about injuries on WSU’s defensive line. The depth was precariously thin, especially at nose tackle, and anyone going missing for a length of time could be a death kneel for the defense as a whole. To this point in the season though (furiously knocks on hardwood floor), outside of Oguayo, they’ve remained healthy. Thanks in large part to Derek Moore, the impact of Oguayo’s absence hasn’t been too great.

The linebackers, though, have been decimated. As we noted earlier, Pelluer was lost for the year against the Oregon State Beavers and Cougfan reported today that Nate DeRider would be done for the season as well. That leaves the middle linebacker depth chart looking like this:

Yikes.

Here’s the good news though: that guy at the top of WIL has been playing out of his skull, something he’ll have to continue to do if WSU wants to sustain its success this season.

Jahad Woods hasn’t just filled in admirably for Pelluer, he has far exceeded all expectations. His pursuit speed, his tackling, his ability to be around the ball at all times; it has all been excellent in just three full games as a starter. Hell, he even has a signature moment that will live in WSU football lore for decades to come, pictured above.

I think we were all worried when Pelluer was injured but Woods showed us our concerns were clearly misplaced. He has become a linebacker opposing offensives legitimately need to plan for; a guy who can blow up any play for a loss of yards instead of a big gain.

Woods will need to step up once again tomorrow as the Cougs face a good Cal rushing attack. Although the Golden Bears’ offense has struggled at times, their running backs have still been able to move the ball with relative success. Forcing Ross Bowers into throwing will be the ideal situation for the Cougs, and Jahad Woods’ play up front will be key to making Cal put the ball in the air, where Bowers has thrown eight picks in just 222 attempts.

He’s just a redshirt freshman, but Woods has already shown he can carry the burden of being a defensive leader and playing at the college level. It’s a rare combination, one I’m glad the WSU coaches found and got to commit to Pullman.

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Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small. A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.

-Lao Tzu

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Jahad Woods, your most important player against Cal.