Jeff Woods considers himself “a phenomenal” tight end. The East Carolina coaching staff believes Woods can also be exceptional as an offensive tackle.
The Pirates made a convincing argument to Woods that transitioning to offensive line at the college level is a positive move for his football future during a recruitment that started in earnest last January. That’s why the 6-foot-6, 260-pounder from Fayetteville’s Trinity Christian School accepted a scholarship offer from ECU on June 22nd.
“It was very hard for me at first to think about moving to offensive tackle,” Woods said. “I know if any college gave me a chance at tight end I could really do something neat. But I trust the East Carolina coaches. They believe I can be a very gifted offensive tackle. I love tight end. But at the end of the day they’re giving me a scholarship [to play tackle], so I’m going to work hard and make it worth it at the end of the day.”
Changing positions won’t be the first time Woods has made a sacrifice to further his football career.
Originally from the Boston area, Woods developed an early attachment to the sport, inspired in part by his cousin, Chavis Williams. Williams was a linebacker at Alabama, where he appeared in 33 games between 2007-10 and played on a national championship squad as a senior. He also spent a year on the practice squad with the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens.
Woods started playing football as a fifth grader and enjoyed immediate success. As an eighth grader, he was selected to play for the Mass Elite All-Star squad that advanced to the Elite Eight of the national tournament before losing to Maryland.
It was at that stage of Woods’ career that his family decided to move South to enhance his opportunities to be recruited heading into high school.
“The reason we moved South was because we thought recruiting wise you can be the same player up North and have less [scholarship] offers because they [recruiters] don’t respect the level of competition as much,” Wood said. “I left behind my family, my grandparents, up in Massachusetts to play football. It was for me to better myself.”
Woods saw his first varsity football action in North Carolina at Western Harnett High School in 2016. He appeared in four games at tight end with the Eagles that season, making five catches for 43 yards as a junior. Woods would reclassify academically and repeat his junior year at Word of God Academy in Raleigh last fall.
The move to Word of God paid off with a breakout performance by Woods, who had about 900 yards receiving and 10 touchdowns for the Holy Rams. But in the wake of that on-the-field success, a head coaching change in football at Word of God led Woods to leave in January for Trinity Christian.
Trinity Christian defeated Word of God, 52-6, last season, but Woods’ performance left an impression on Trinity coach Chuck Webster.
“During the first half he definitely caused me some problems that led me to make some adjustments,” Webster said. “I remember being impressed with his athleticism along with his size. The kid has a 7-2 wingspan and that caused us some problems. They had him playing tight end, and the kid has good hands and is a good route runner.”
Woods was a mid-season addition to the eventual state champion basketball team at Trinity Christian, which featured major college hoop signees Joey Baker (Duke) and Au’Diese Toney (Pittsburgh), along with N.C. State football commit Zovon Lindsay. Coming off the bench as a frontcourt reserve, Woods averaged about two points and two rebounds for a 25-6 team.
Since basketball season ended, Woods has been involved in off-season training under Webster’s supervision. Webster compares Woods favorably to Lindsay, a 6-5, 270-pounder who has played on the offensive and defensive lines for the Crusaders.
“They do possess some of the same qualities,” Webster said. “They’re both athletic, have good size and length, they have good footwork and are just good athletes to be big guys. I think the sky is the limit for both of them.”
ECU started recruiting Woods while he was playing for Word of God. But it was when the Pirates sent staff members to watch him play basketball for Trinity Christian that an offer resulted for Woods to attend the Pirates’ prospect camp on June 10.
An impressive camp performance by Woods netted his first scholarship offer.
He decided to accept the offer after traveling back to Boston to discuss the situation with family members.
“East Carolina has talked to me every day since January,” Woods said. “Their coaches believed in me from the get-go. I know others (schools) will come around, but they are the first ones to believe in me and that means a lot to me.”