25 June 2008
| Justin Woodall - #27 - SS - 6-2 - 224 lbs. - Oxford, MS - Lafayette HS - 2 Varsity Letters
Justin turned down big money from the New York Mets to come to Bama and play football, and up to this point, it hasn’t worked out. I say “up to this point” because 2008 will be Justin’s real opportunity to prove that decision a good one.
Blessed with great size for his position, through most last season Justin was unable to grasp the mental aspects of strong safety, and unwilling to use his size and strength to his advantage. And then the light came on. After sitting behind walk-on Tyrone King
early in the season, Justin started seeing time in Bama’s last 3 games, and carried that over into the spring.
First came the announcement that he would not, as expected, play baseball for Jim Wells
. Then came the sight of Justin running with the #1s on defense. He was constantly praised throughout the spring by his teammates and by Nick Saban
as a guy who was making great strides. And it showed on A-Day, where Justin had a strong game.
: Some players take a little longer to have things click, and Justin appears to be one of those guys. When he was sitting behind King
, I had all but written him off to the baseball team, figuring he would take his left-handed mid-90s fastball to the diamond for a year, and then off to MLB. Thankfully that changed, and Justin should be the starting Strong Safety when the season begins.
There is highly-touted freshman Mark Barron
coming in at his position, so Justin will need to continue to show improvement and a willingness to be physical – something absolutely demanded by Nick Saban
from his safeties. And slacking off in effort or physical play could see Justin relegated to back-up, but the only real threat will be from Barron.
Bama’s defense will likely struggle early in the season to find its pass rushing rhythm, and Game 1 against Clemson will be a big test for Bama’s rush defense. So that makes the Safeties, particularly the strong safety very important. If Justin can come out of the gate strong with 4 solid games, Bama stands a chance to hold the Tigers, Green Wave, Hilltoppers & Razorbacks offenses at bay. If Justin struggles then Clemson and Arkansas will be tough to beat.
That’s a lot to put on a guy who has played very little in his career, but Woodall appears to be primed for that responsibility. I expect that he’ll come out strong and rely heavily on Rashad Johnson
until he finds his game-day footing.