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Asti: What if Charles Woods was Healthy All Season?

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There’s no denying the loss of cornerback Charles Woods has been a big hit to the West Virginia defense this season. But what kind of impact has it had exactly, most notably in WVU’s two losses completely without the services of one of their best and most experienced players.

Prior to the season there were three players WVU could not afford to lose for a significant period of time if the Mountaineers were going to have a quality season – quarterback JT Daniels, defensive lineman Dante Stills and Woods. Daniels has been great and that quarterback upgrade fans were calling for. He’s still among the top 25 signal callers in the country on the Golden Arms Watch List. Stills hasn’t been able to put up the same numbers he’s posted in the past, but has made plays to set up others. But Woods has been missing in action since suffering a serious ankle injury early during the Backyard Brawl in Pittsburgh. And while having a healthy Woods does not necessarily mean WVU would have a better record, his absence has been a glaring whole for the secondary, a unit that’s had issues all season.

UPDATE: WVU HC Neal Brown Still Hopeful About Status of Charles Woods

WVU desperately needed Woods against Kansas QB Jalon Daniels

Neal Brown was noncommittal about Woods’ status the week of the Kansas game. That was likely done to not tip off the opponent and maybe because Brown knew how difficult facing Jayhawks quarterback Jalon Daniels was going to be. As the game unfolded, it was clear Daniels, both with his arm and his legs, was able to pick apart the WVU secondary minus Woods. Daniels threw for 219 yards and 3 touchdown passes while also running for 85 yards for an average of 7.1 per. In his postgame press conference after the overtime loss that saw Kansas hang 49 points of offensive production on a defense that had been the best aspect of the Mountaineers in recent years, Brown mentioned how the corners and safeties were out of position, even if just slightly, which allowed space and big plays to materialize for Daniels.

Inserting a heathy Woods into the Kansas game on that miserable night in Morgantown may have made a difference. Any quarterback would have to account for and be aware of Woods, a respect likely not offered to anyone else on the entire defense besides Stills. Daniels may have not tried to be as aggressive on Woods’ side of the field. Woods may have taken away an option for Daniels when he did need to throw. However, the reality was that without Woods, Daniels knew there was no-one else with his ability to deal with a dynamic offense, especially one that incorporates so many RPO (run-pass-option) plays.

Would Woods have helped calm Texas’ storm?

Even though Brown waited until the possible minute to announce Woods being out against Kansas, everyone knew there was no way he was going to return just a week later after being carted off the Acrisure Stadium field. In between the loss to Kansas and Texas dominating the Mountaineers, Woods had surgery. It then became apparent Woods’ injury was a serious one. Brown has consistently said, as recently as this week, that the team “has hope” that Woods can be back this season and he is fighting to make that happen. Hearing a word like hope doesn’t exactly provide much confidence that Woods can play at all, let alone have the type of impact a star player on preseason watch lists should.

The Longhorns, who were coming off a loss to Texas Tech, showing that they may not be as good as the team that almost beat Alabama, were able to score at will in the first half against a WVU defense that looked better each of the prior two weeks, granted those wins were over an FCS team and a struggling Virginia Tech squad. Wide receiver Xavier Worthy took over the game on his own. He was responsible for 3 Texas touchdowns, which by itself would have bested WVU’s 20 points throughout the entire game. Worthy threw for a score and caught two other balls from quarterback Hudson Card that reached the end zone. Would one single player have been allowed to be so overpowering with Woods on the field? Taking nothing away from the skills of Worthy, but it’s tough to believe Woods would not have helped to at least neutralize a player posing such a threat. That is what Woods is there to do after all – contain the top option for the opposition.

Back to reality…

In reality, it doesn’t really matter what would have happened if WVU had a healthy Woods this season, even just in their two Big 12 losses. Would Woods have been a benefit to have out there? Absolutely. Can WVU fans feel their team would have won those games just by having an elite corner? That might be a stretch when the other issues of the team have been well documented. All Mountaineer Nation can do now is hope this team can get Woods back at some point this season, and the season is still one that can be respectable when (or if) that does occur.

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