The Long Road to Eugene: Cornerback Haki Woods Jr.

New Oregon Ducks cornerback Haki M. Woods Jr.’s long, meandering journey from his hometown of South Bend, Indiana to Eugene, Oregon took over four years of his life. The route included a stop at Indiana State University and Tucson, Arizona, where he was a Junior College All-American at Pima Community College.

Haki grew up in a tough part of Indiana’s fourth largest city, where he was essentially homeless during his high school years. He was lightly recruited due to his unstable home life, even though he was a two-time All-Conference and All-State selection. Haki eventually received a scholarship offer from NCAA Division 1 (FCS) Indiana State of the Missouri Valley Conference. He “redshirted” his freshman year in 2014 and played in nine games as a redshirt-freshman the following year. Subsequently, Woods left the program to enroll in Pima, and played in 2016 as a redshirt sophomore and 2017 as a redshirt junior. In 2017, he was selected to the second team Junior College All-America Team at cornerback.

Woods committed to play defensive back for the University of Arizona on October 16, 2017, but decommitted ten days later to explore his options. By then other schools were beginning to show interest; among them Utah, California, Oklahoma State, and Oregon. The Ducks received a commitment from Woods on December 18, 2017, ending the long journey detailed above.

TRIANGLE NUMBERS

Haki M. Woods, Jr, has been listed at 6-foot-3 and 192 pounds in various online media sources. The recruiting site 247sports.com lists him at 6-foot-3 and 192 pounds, as does the springfieldnewssun.com. The official Oregon Ducks roster lists him at 6-foot-3 and 201 pounds.

There isn’t any information available as to his arm length or hand size, but for similar sized athletes his arm length should be 32″ to 33″ and his hands should be 9-3/8″ to 9-7/8″. The hand size is measured from the thumb to “pinkie” finger, with your hand “splayed” out on a flat surface.

southbendtribune.com

Haki Woods, Jr.
23’0 Long Jump

He was never tested in high school or at either of the collegiate institutions that he played at. He did record a 23’0 long jump in high school at a sanctioned event. This is a significant distance for a kid under the age of 18.

As a result we are left to comp (“comparable to”) his times and distances for an estimation of his athleticism. A comparison athlete helps to provide some insight when authenticated data is unavailable. All four of the athletes I selected are 6-foot-3 cornerbacks and weigh approximately 200 pounds.

Ahkello Witherspoon – 4.45/40-clock, 40.5″ vertical, and a 4.13 20-yard shuttle. Kevin King – 4.43/40-clock, 39.5″ vertical, and a 3.89 shuttle. Keith McGill – 4.51/40-clock, 39.0″ vertical, and a 4.18 shuttle. Brian Allen – 4.48/40-clock, 34.5″ vertical, and a 4.43 shuttle. The full bios of these athletes are listed below.

Based on what I have seen on Woods’ tape, it is fair to say that he is likely in the middle-to lower range of these 40-clock times, vertical jumps, and 20-yard shuttles.

SKILL SET

Woods possesses rare length for a boundary corner. He is tough and very physical in press coverage as he seeks to impose his will from the snap. He uses his hands to disrupt routes and “nuance” the receiver out of bounds. He sheds blocks on bubble screens and is an aggressive tackler in run support.

Bubble Screen Defense…

In the video above Woods crashes the wide receiver wall and shuts down a bubble screen on the perimeter. He is very physical in the press and demonstrates the toughness you look for in a boundary corner.

The Sideline as another Defender…

Above, Woods “nuances” the wide receiver out of bounds. This is textbook “Bump & Run” or “Press” coverage.

Recovery Over The Top….

Woods comes over the top to break up a pass on a slant route. This is typical “Outside-In” Press coverage, where the CB concedes the interior to prevent anything up the sideline. He then comes over the top to break up the pass. Great technique.

Change of Direction…

In the film clip above Woods flashes the “suddenness” that cornerbacks must have to open their hips and change direction.

Tight Press Coverage…

It appears that Pima Community College schemed their corners up close to the line of scrimmage in aggressive press coverage, utilizing less zone schemes. In the video above Haki demonstrates tight press coverage.

Run Support…

Woods is a tough, physical kid. A willing and aggressive tackler whether he is on the perimeter, or in close run support.

Who He Reminds Me Of…

newsday.com

Jeremy Clark

Jeremy Clark from the University of Michigan, who was selected in the sixth round (No. 197 overall) by the New York Jets in the 2017 NFL Draft. Both Clark and  Woods share similar size, athleticism, and skill set. It is reasonable to assume that Woods would track a similar career trajectory.

Other athletes that are similar are Brian Allen (University of Utah) selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the fifth round (No. 173 overall) in 2017, Ahkello Witherspoon (University of Colorado) taken by the San Francisco Forty-Niners in the third round (No. 66 overall) in 2017, Keith McGill (Utah) selected by the Los Angeles Raiders in the fourth round (No. 116 overall) in 2014, and Kevin King (University of Washington) selected by the Green Bay Packers in the second round (No. 33 overall) in 2016.

ASSESSMENT

Haki M. Woods Jr. will have one year to play at Oregon based upon his eligibility clock. I doubt that he has the knowledge of the playbook or the skill set to unseat the incumbent cornerbacks (Thomas Graham, Jr. and Deommodore Lenoir) for a starting role. He will however, provide valuable backup depth at a position of need.

Woods has rare size for the boundary cornerback position. He combines this length with intimidating physicality in the press. He appears to play equally well in press or zone coverage, demonstrating plus range. He can backpedal and make a smooth transition to top end, with fluidity for an athlete of his length. He plays with an edge and is comfortable with contact. He is a solid and aggressive tackler in space.

pima.prestosports.com

Haki Woods, Jr.

I saw little evidence of his ability to climb the ladder and highpoint the ball. As with most long DB’s, a high center of gravity makes it more difficult to bend, plant, change direction, and mirror without clutching and grabbing. I doubt that he has the “twitch” that is normally associated with shorter corners (short area suddenness), but then he appears to change direction better than a typical back-end guy with his length. I saw little evidence of ball skills so we are left to assume about his hand/eye coordination, the ability to locate and track in space, and whether he demonstrates natural pass catching traits (“plucking” versus body catching).

Because testing results are unavailable and there is limited film, it is difficult to estimate his long-term future. If he has a solid senior year at Oregon and tests well at the combine or Oregon’s pro day, Woods may turn out to be a more productive pro than college player through opportunity alone.

The draft class of 2017 was very unusual in that it had a plethora of long (6-foot-2 and taller) cornerbacks. A total of six long cornerbacks were taken in the seven rounds of that draft. The 2019 class that Woods will be a part of is more the norm in terms of long cornerbacks. In the projected first four rounds, there appears to be eleven corners available for selection, and only two (Andraez Williams – LSU and Michael Jackson – Miami) are 6-foot-2 or taller. This bodes well for Woods due to the fact that NFL teams are always looking to add length to their cornerback group, either for situational substitutions or as a starter.

Woods should be a solid second option at Oregon both in sub-packages, and in the event injuries occur at the cornerback position.

Michael Kelly “ChicoDuck”
Chico, California

Top Photo Credit: dailyemerald.com

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