NewsOK: Oklahoma City News, Sports, Weather & Entertainment

'Watch and learn': OU safety Woodi Washington ready to break out after redshirt season

Woodi Washington (5) celebrates OU's win over Baylor in last season's Big 12 championship game with Jeremiah Criddell (22) and defensive lineman Marcus Stripling (33). [Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY Sports]
Woodi Washington (5) celebrates OU's win over Baylor in last season's Big 12 championship game with Jeremiah Criddell (22) and defensive lineman Marcus Stripling (33). [Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY Sports]

Like the rest of the sporting world, Oklahoma safety Woodi Washington has had an unconventional offseason.

The coronavirus pandemic shut down the sports world in March, and Washington has been back home in Murfreesboro, Tenn., training for what could be a breakout redshirt freshman season for the former four-star prospect.

He’s spent time training with Victor Wright Jr., a man he’s worked with since his freshman year in high school. The training doesn’t fully emulate what Washington would be getting at a proper Sooners spring practice gauntlet, but it has given him time to hone in on specific traits of his game.

“It’s difficult because we’re not playing real football,” Wright said. “At the end of the day, nothing replicates going out there against other players with something to prove. However, it does allow you to have those moments to realize what you’re not doing well. So we’ve been able to put some small tweaks to make him more efficient as an athlete.”

Washington was recruited to OU as a cornerback but was moved to safety ahead of his freshman year. Pat Fields and Dellarrin Turner-Yell took up the vast majority of snaps at the position, leaving Washington to sit on the sidelines and learn from the more experienced players.

“It’s very valuable for him that he got to watch and learn from them this year,” said DD Anderson, who played with Washington in middle and high school. “When you get to watch the game up close, you can learn and develop on everything the older guys are doing and it really gets you better.”

Washington's first meaningful snaps at Oklahoma came in difficult circumstances. With LSU holding a 21-7 lead early in the second quarter of the Peach Bowl, Bookie Radley-Hiles was ejected for targeting and Washington was thrown into the fire after only playing in three games prior.

Three plays later Tiger quarterback Joe Burrow heaved a pass to Justin Jefferson down the right sideline for a touchdown, despite blanket coverage from Washington.

“I told him (after the game), ‘Listen man, this is just like your sophomore year when you gave up a touchdown and I was in your butt,’” said Kevin Creasey, Washington’s coach at Oakland High School in Murfreesboro. “You got burned, but how you handled it made all the difference.

“This time, you rolled down and punched the receiver, he ran an out and up and you ran with him the whole way. It just so happens the Heisman Trophy winner threw a perfect pass on you. You were in a good position, but let that motivate you this offseason.”

OU’s coaches cited Washington’s performance as one of the defense’s lone bright spots in a game in which it gave up 63 points and 692 yards of total offense. Prior to the cancellation of spring practice due to the coronavirus, head coach Lincoln Riley and defensive coordinator Alex Grinch both said they expect Washington to be an impact player for the defense in 2020.

“Woodi, specifically, there’s a lot of things in that game that he did extremely well,” Riley said. “When you go back and watch the tape (and realize) that was his real first playing time, and you watch several of those plays and you’re like, ‘Wow.’ Like, that’s pretty good considering the circumstances, the environment, the amount of practice reps, all that, no, I think it’s a positive for those guys.”

With the Sooners’ being allowed to return to campus for voluntary workouts on July 1 and an increased momentum for the college football season to be played, Washington’s opportunity to show he can breakout in the ways his coaches expect.

“I thought he came in and showed well at times, and that’s something that needs to be a springboard for him from a confidence standpoint. We’re awfully excited about him, we really are,” Grinch said after Oklahoma’s only spring practice on March 10. “He’s a guy that we were able to secure the redshirt for and a guy we expect to have some impact for us defensively.”

Vic Reynolds

Read more ›