Oklahoma Sooners: Austin Woods

Crimson Countdown: C Austin Woods 

June, 13, 2013
During the summer months, SoonerNation will take a closer look at each player on Oklahoma’s roster in our Crimson Countdown series. Each day, we will analyze each player’s impact on the program since arriving on campus, his potential impact this fall and his long-term impact. Starting with No. 1 Kendal Thompson, the series will follow the roster numerically through our final analysis of No. 99 Chaz Nelson.

No. 50 Austin Woods
Center, 6-foot-4, 310 pounds, senior

Postgame wrap: Oklahoma 63, Texas 21 

October, 14, 2012
It’s rare you see a game with this many fascinating numbers to underscore one side’s dominance. Among them:

  • OU outgained Texas 677 to 289, handing the Longhorns their greatest yardage disparity in a game in 62 years, according to ESPN Stats & Info. OU had outgained Texas 407 yards to 65.
  • The Longhorns didn’t get a first down through the first 20 minutes of the game. And David Ash was picked off on the next play after that first.

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Austin WoodsWesley Hitt/Getty ImagesAustin Woods and the Oklahoma offensive line will have to shuffle again with the season-ending injury to Nila Kasitati.
NORMAN, Okla. -- Through four games, the depth of Oklahoma’s interior offensive line has taken a substantial hit. Reserve guard Nila Kasitati became the latest injury casualty, tearing his ACL last weekend at Texas Tech. The Sooners had previously lost starters Ben Habern and Tyler Evans to season-ending injuries during the preseason.

With Kasitati also now lost for the season, the Sooners will lean on Austin Woods and Ty Darlington for depth.

But offensive line coach James Patton said Tuesday that starting right tackle Daryl Williams could move to guard in a pinch. If that happened, the Sooners would probably move Lane Johnson from left to right tackle, and bring in Tyrus Thompson in at left tackle.

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Defensive tackle Jamarkus McFarland was back on the practice field Monday, despite sitting out most of Saturday’s game at Texas Tech with a bruise to his quad.

“He put a hat on it,” McFarland said. “Right above the knee. Nothing but bruises on the muscles. They were being cautious. We were doing good with the guys in the middle that were in so there was no reason to go back in.”

McFarland has taken plenty of grief for the play that knocked him out of the game. After intercepting a tipped screen pass, McFarland barreled to his right with the end zone in sight. But before he got there, Texas Tech quarterback Seth Doege planted his helmet into McFarland’s knee, forcing McFarland to fumble the ball back to the Red Raiders.

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Oklahoma could be facing a stern test when the Sooners face Texas Tech in Lubbock, Texas, on Saturday. Red Raiders defensive tackles Delvon Simmons and Kerry Hyder present a quality duo of interior defensive linemen.

“Their interior linemen are the best we’ve seen thus far,” offensive tackle Lane Johnson said. “They like to rush up the field pretty hard, they’re pretty good athletes. IT’s the best front we’ve seen thus far form an athletic standpoint.”

[+] EnlargeAustin Woods
Rick Scuteri/AP ImagesAustin Woods, Oklahoma's deep snapper on field goals and a backup center, was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma in the spring.
Hyder leads Texas Tech with five tackles for loss and three sacks as he has been one of the most productive defensive tackles in the Big 12. Simmons, a sophomore, has been very solid alongside Hyder.

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Oklahoma redshirt plan coming into focus 

September, 11, 2012
NORMAN, Okla. -- Through two games, the Sooners have played nine true freshmen: wide receivers Trey Metoyer, Sterling Shepard and Durron Neal, tight end Taylor McNamara, center Ty Darlington, defensive ends Mike Onuoha and Charles Tapper, linebacker Eric Striker and cornerback Gary Simon. With the cupcake portion of the schedule over and one with, it appears the rest of the true freshmen will redshirt this season.

SoonerNation breaks down the rest of the freshman class, from those most likely to least likely to make an impact in 2013:

[+] EnlargeTrey Metoyer
Richard Rowe/US PresswireReceiver Trey Metoyer is one of nine true freshmen who have played this season for the Sooners.
1. Alex Ross, running back: The Sooners could have an opening in the backfield for Ross with Dominique Whaley due to graduate. Damien Williams figures to be projected starter, and then there’s Brennan Clay and Roy Finch. But Ross nearly avoided this redshirt this season with an even more crowded backfield. Ross’ future is bright.

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Finding ways to take advantage of the explosiveness of Roy Finch is a priority for Oklahoma heading into the Sooners season opener against UTEP at 9:30 p.m. CT at Sun Bowl Stadium in El Paso, Texas.

The junior running back has been working at slot receiver for OU during preseason camp. And he’s getting more and more comfortable in the slot.

[+] EnlargeRoy Finch
Steven Leija/Icon SMIRoy Finch will likely make his biggest impact in 2012 at receiver.
“I’m excited,” Finch said. “I’ve been working hard in the slot. Whenever you get the ball in the slot, normally, you’re in space already. There’s a lot of room to work.”

The Sooners are looking to have use Finch in different ways this season than they have in his first two years.

“They have a package for me this year,” Finch said. “I talked to Coach Norvell and he doesn’t want me to be a guy who just gets reverses, he wants me to be a complete player.”

Asked if it’s more 50-50 or 80-20 slot receiver to running back, for his potential time on the field, Finch said he expects to spend more time in the slot.

“I think it’s more 80-20,” he said. “We have Dom (Dominique Whaley) and Damien Williams, we have feature backs. I feel like they really want me to focus not the slot and get really good at it.”

Finch is a potential terror in the slot with his quickness and open field moves. If a team tries to cover him with a linebacker or safety, the Sooners should have the advantage in that matchup. The dynamic running back/slot receiver could emerge as an “X factor” for OU in 2012.

• Heading into the opener, Sooners offensive coordinator Josh Heupel doesn’t have a set goal for number of plays run by the OU offense on Saturday.

“It depends on the flow of the game, each one has it’s own identity,” Heupel said. “We try to push (tempo) but each one is different.”

The Sooners averaged 80.92 plays per game in 13 contests in 2011.

After Tuesday’s practice, Heupel was happy with the tempo of the offense.

“Today was a really good day, guys competed at a high level,” he said. “We challenged them yesterday to do that, you have to win on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday to give yourself a chance to win on Saturday.”

OU’s high tempo offense consistently creates problems for defenses as they struggle to line up, focus and matchup with the Sooners skill players. If the Sooners can approach their average play per game number from 2011, it could be a great sign for Saturday and beyond.

• For the first time this preseason, junior-college transfer running back Damien Williams met reporters. What kind of game does he bring to the offense?

“I like running inside,” Williams said. “But I can run outside, catch the ball – I can do everything.”

Teammates, however, have raved about Williams’ inside running the most.

“He’s really physical,” Finch said. “He can really move the pile.”

Williams said running backs coach Cale Gundy hasn’t disclosed how he’ll rotate in with Dominique Whaley and Brennan Clay. But don’t be surprised if Brennan Clay is used as the third-down while Williams the power back behind starter Dominiue Whaley.

• Offensive line coach James Patton broke down the interior offensive line rotation going into the opener. Nila Kasitati is Patton’s top reserve at either guard position, although Kasitati has been getting his reps at left guard. True freshman

Ty Darlington, meanwhile, is Gabe Ikard’s backup at center. Patton said he has been impressed with Darlington’s “smarts and toughness” all preseason. Patton is hoping for opportunities to get Kasitati, Darlington and Austin Woods – who is the third option at guard or center – some work during the early part of the season.

“It’s all about game experience,” Patton said. “Ben Habern, Tyler Evans, those guys played a lot of football. It’s about getting game experience. Nothing like game feel.”

• The month of August has been a whirlwind for Penn State transfer Justin Brown. Tuesday, Brown said one of most important factors in transferring to another school was that he could still graduate with a Penn State degree.

“I wasn’t going to come down here if I couldn’t graduate from Penn State,” Brown said. “I spent three-and-a-half years there. It was important to me.”

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With injuries to Ben Habern and Tyler Evans, and Austin Woods still going through chemo treatments, guard/center Nila Kasitati has become an invaluable piece of the offensive line rotation. But he, too, had a scare this summer.

Since middle school, Kasitati has had episodes where he couldn’t catch his breath and his heart would race. A “heavy chest,” he called it. Sometimes he’d get out of a chair and “it felt like I’d ran a mile.” Finally this summer, it became too much to bear. He woke up for a July workout with a racing heart. It never slowed, and Kasitati had to eventually excuse himself from the workout.

“I wasn’t sure what it was,” he said. "Before, I didn’t think it was anything. I never saw it as anything. But I guess one workout – and the work I was doing wasn’t even hard – it just hit me as I woke up. It bothered me the whole day and I went into workouts and I just couldn’t do it.”

Kasitati met with the training staff, who performed an EKG on him. He was diagnosed with arrhythmia.

“They did this procedure where they actually go through up your groin, the main arteries, and just go up,” he said.

Kasitati had to stay away from football for a couple of weeks, missing the first days of practice. But he has since returned, feels great and is just days away from getting all of his conditioning back.

“I’m fine,” he said. “The surgery was a success so I’m good right now. There’s nothing holding me back from being better or getting a chance to play.”
Every weekday morning, a member of the SoonerNation gives his take on three things happening in the Sooner sports world.

1. ESPN's Brett McMurphy is reporting that Arlington, Texas, and New Orleans are the heavy favorites to host the new Champions Bowl, which will pit the SEC and Big 12 against each other starting in 2015. It would be a huge boon for most of the Big 12 to have a high-level bowl -- one that will be part of the national playoff semifinal rotation -- in their own backyard.

2. What an awesome person Austin Woods is. The Oklahoma deep snapper, who was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma this spring and has been undergoing chemotherapy treatments while working out with the team this summer, has an amazing attitude for a kid put in a tough situation. Woods, on what he thought after he was diagnosed with cancer: "My first thought was, when can I play football again?"

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NORMAN, Okla. -- Oklahoma offensive linemen Austin Woods and Bronson Irwin have been roommates ever since they enrolled early at OU. When Irwin heard his friend was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in the spring, it shocked him. What hasn’t shocked him is Woods’ mentality during the process.

“That’s the way he has been and that’s the way he will always be,” Irwin said. “It’s a fighter’s mentality. It’s a 12-round prize fight and Austin will be there the whole time.”

[+] EnlargeAustin Woods
Rick Scuteri/AP ImagesAustin Woods, Oklahoma's deep snapper on field goals and a backup center, was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma in the spring.
Woods, OU's deep snapper on field goals, was diagnosed a week after spring football but hasn’t missed a beat. He only missed two summer workouts and has been cleared to play this season.

Following Tuesday's practice, Woods spoke to the media for the first time since his diagnosis:

SoonerNation: Talking to all your teammates, every single one of them mentions you as an inspiration. What does it mean to you to hear things like that from your teammates?

Austin Woods: It means a lot that they say that about me. We’re all brothers on this team. I knew no matter what I wanted to be there for them. It could always be worse. As bad as you think you are, you’re not as bad as some other people. No matter what you’re going through, we can get through this together.

SN: When did you first notice there might be something wrong?

AW: All spring I had a sore throat and swollen glands. I went to trainer Scott Anderson and showed him and asked if that was normal, he said no, not really. I saw multiple doctors and was finally diagnosed with it. It wasn’t [mononucleosis], wasn’t strep throat but nobody was really talking cancer. Went to an oncologist and thought maybe this is cancer. If that’s the case, (I've) got to let my family know. Got to have my coaches and teammates know and be ready to fight this thing.

(Read full post)

Chat wrap: Transfer receiver standing out

August, 14, 2012

SoonerNation writer Jake Trotter chatted with readers on Monday about Oklahoma football and recruiting. Here's the full transcript. If you didn't get your question answered, send it to the SoonerNation mailbag.

Here are a few highlights from the chat:

Jay (Wichita): What is the word on Jalen Saunders? Why is he getting so many reps, do the coaches have information that he will be cleared to play?

Jake Trotter: Two pretty good sources told us on Sunday that Saunders had NOT yet heard back from the NCAA on his waiver request. The coaches obviously feel decent about his chances, else they wouldn't be playing him on the second team. But no official word yet. Could come any day now.

Billy Joe Bob (Enid): If called into action, will Ty Darlington, Derek Farniok, Nila Kasitati, Kyle Marrs, and Nathan Hughes be able to play at a high level?

Jake Trotter: The second team offensive line is a concern now. Nila Kasitati is practicing, but only a couple weeks from having a heart procedure. OU's other most experienced interior reserve, Austin Woods, is going through chemo. Darlington could emerge as Gabe Ikard's backup at center -- he's gotten some 2nd team reps there. Don't see Farniok, Marrs or Hughes being a factor this season.

Brett (RI): Any word on how the tight ends are looking this year and how they will factor into the offense?

Jake Trotter: They're going to really on Brannon Green to be this year's Brody Eldridge. He's not going to be a big factor in the passing game, but they'll ask him to run block a lot. I expect Trey Millard to get time at tight end in one-back sets. Taylor McNamara could add a catch here or there.

Dig (Doug): How big of a game is the Texas Tech game this year?

Jake Trotter: Big in the sense that's it a dangerous game. OU has never played well in Lubbock, and Tech has to feel confident coming of its win last season. It's also the week before Texas. I would like Tech's chances a lot more, though, if they hadn't beaten OU last season. Sooners should be focused for this one.

John Michael McGee's tenure at Oklahoma appears to be over. The true freshman guard tweeted Monday afternoon that he was leaving the team.

“Goodluck to OU on the field I'll be watching,” McGee posted on his Twitter account. “It's just not for me.”

Bob Stoops said he gave McGee the day away from the team to contemplate whether he wanted to go ahead and leave.

His departure is another blow to an offensive line that’s been ravaged by injuries this season. Monday, Stoops confirmed that three-year starting guard Tyler Evans has suffered a knee injury and was undergoing an MRI. Stoops feared that it could be a torn ligament. Last week, Stoops announced that veteran center Ben Habern was giving up football because of a bad neck and back.

OU is also without guard/center Nila Kasitati, who underwent a procedure on his heart last week. The ailment is believed to be non-life threatening and offensive line coach James Patton said he’s hoping to get Kasitati back on the practice field in the next few days. Reserve center Austin Woods is still undergoing chemotherapy treatments even as he practices with the team. Woods was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma in the spring.

McGee was the No. 12 guard in the country coming out of Texarkana, Texas, according to ESPN. He signed with the Sooners despite having offers from Michigan, Notre Dame and Alabama, among others.

“John Michael McGee is a freak athletically,” Patton said of him in the spring. “He’s not as big as (former OU All-American) Trent Williams, but in terms of a linemen who can move and bend and has quickness and agility – we saw him on tape and they threw a tackle screen to him and he walked in for a touchdown. In terms of his athleticism, he can do a lot of different things for us.”
Updated at 8:10 p.m.: Oklahoma announced Monday night that Tyler Evans suffered a torn ACL in his right knee.

NORMAN, Okla. -- Another day, another Oklahoma offensive lineman goes down. Bob Stoops confirmed Monday after practice that guard Tyler Evans suffered a significant knee injury. Evans is getting an MRI today, and Stoops said could have torn a ligament.

Evans has been a solid performer since winning a starting job his freshman year, with 29 career starts. According to Stoops, Evans injured the knee on the first day of practice.

[+] EnlargeTyler Evans
Matthew Emmons/US PresswireSenior guard Tyler Evans is having an MRI on on his knee today.
One week after losing Ben Habern to a career-ending neck injury, the Sooners are without another significant cog on the line. Bronson Irwin, whom the Sooners coaches have praised the last two weeks, steps into a starting job at right guard. Irwin has filled a reserve role the last two seasons, but really impressed the staff with his work in the offseason. With Gabe Ikard sliding to center to replace Habern, sophomore Adam Shead is in the starting lineup at left guard.

  • The Sooners also might lose another offensive lineman in guard John Michael McGee. McGee was given the day off Monday to reflect on whether he wants to stay part of the team. McGee tweeted several times Monday morning, suggesting he was going back home to Texarkana.

  • Cale Gundy said he has had a chance to watch the newcomers catch punts. Sterling Shepard and Durron Neal could help there. Gundy, who runs OU's punt return units, expects them to make an impact at some point during their careers, but does that mean we should expect to see them back there in El Paso?

    The wildcard is Justin Brown. He's a veteran returner and it's a skill he can step right in and help immediately (i.e. no learning curve within the system). I'd expect Brown to handle most of the return duties with Shepard and Neal providing depth at the position. Regardless, the Sooners return game could take a step up.

  • Guard Adam Shead said the Sooners don't feel snakebitten with the injuries up front. It's a next-man-up mentality and OU will move forward with the same expectations. In a matter of days, Shead has gone from possible starter to the anchor of the Sooners guard position.

  • Running back Brennan Clay is really excited about adding Damien Williams to OU's RB corps. Williams played at a rival high school in San Diego, so Clay knows his talent better than most.

    Gundy, the Sooners running backs coach, also had high praise for Williams and said the junior college transfer has a good chance to earn some touches this season.

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  • Nothing could keep deep snapper and center Austin Woods out of workouts this summer. Not even chemotherapy.

    "Woods went through all of summer workouts with cancer which is very admirable and kind of ridiculous if you think about it,” center Gabe Ikard said during OU media day. "Every workout. The only times he missed is when he had chemo treatments. Honestly, it was one of those things where we're going through a workout and you look to your left and you look at Austin and he's going through it and you're like, 'Man it's not that bad'. There's worse things in life than breathing hard on a Wednesday."

    Ikard said he’s relieved that Woods, who was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in the spring, has been able to overcome his ailment to be with the team. Especially after the news that center Ben Habern had given up football because of a bad back and neck.

    "I was just dreading two-a-days and I knew Ben was iffy because he shared some of his feelings with me; I was ending up a center with no backup,” Ikard said. “I was going to play every play all the time. [Woods] told me (the doctor's cleared him) and I was happy. I was really happy.

    "He's got a great fighter's mentality and it's unbelievable the stuff he's doing for us. He's practicing with a (chemotherapy) port in his chest. He puts a pad over it, doesn't say anything about it and he's just one of those guys that's got the right attitude. He's one of my best friends so it's good to have him out there."
    Offensive linemen Nila Kasitati and Austin Woods, two Sooners who have dealt with scary circumstances this offseason, should be on the field this season, Bob Stoops said Saturday during OU media day.

    Kasitati, projected to be one of OU’s top reserves on the interior of the line, has been dealing with a heart condition that Stoops termed as not life threatening. Kasitati underwent a procedure earlier in the week.

    “He'll be able to continue to play,” Stoops said. “He's had it for a long time and no one ever knew it. He never knew it and it just would flare up at times. I couldn't tell you exactly the terms of it, but this procedure, I think he's only going to be out maybe a week. This should correct the problem and he should be fine going forward.”

    Woods, OU’s field-goal snapper in 2011, is back to man the same role, despite being diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma in April. Woods underwent chemotherapy during the summer, but has since been cleared to play.

    “Austin has done a tremendous job fighting through all these chemo treatments and cancer treatments and continues to be out there every day, enthusiastic,” Stoops said. “It’s been remarkable to watch him.”


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