In the four-plus months since Deion Sanders was hired as the head coach of the Colorado football team, Buff Nation has celebrated a return to relevancy.
For the players, however, the hiring of Sanders meant getting down to business.
“It’s been work,” safety Trevor Woods said. “I’ve kind of just put my head down and worked. Even with all the cameras, I even kind of try to avoid all that, but I put my head down and work. That’s all it’s been for the past couple months.”
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That’s all Woods has done since he got to CU in 2021 as a true freshman out of Katy, Texas. A key contributor off the bench in 2021, Woods was a starter and arguably the Buffs’ best defensive player in 2022.
He’s making his mark this spring, too.
Sanders is making players earn their uniform numbers and so far only seven of the 111 players have earned it. Of the 78 returning players from last year, Woods is one of only two to earn a number – along with linebacker Isaac Hurtado.
“It’s a validation kind of thing,” said Woods, who picked No. 43, which he wore last year. “No. 43 is just what I’ve always worn. I think my freshman year was really the only time I’ve ever not worn it. It’s what my dad wore in college and high school so it’s stuck with me since I’ve been little.”
Sanders is in the beginning stages of turning around a program that’s been nationally irrelevant for years. Last year may have been rock bottom, with the Buffs going 1-11 and getting blown out weekly.
Hired to get the Buffs going again, Sanders is revamping the roster, and he’s not done. No positions are safe, even for players like Woods who stood out for the Buffs a year ago.
Sanders has already brought in two safety transfers – Cam’Ron Silmon-Craig (Jackson State) and Myles Slusher (Arkansas) – and his son, Shilo Sanders (Jackson State) is expected to join the team this summer.
Woods said the newcomers haven’t given him extra motivation, however, because he’s always prided himself on his work.
“I just look at it the same way,” he said. “If I was saying I was changing the way I work, then that would mean that I wasn’t working hard before. So I just kind of try to keep what I’ve been always doing.”
Throughout spring drills – the Buffs have had nine of 15 practices – Woods has bonded well with Silmon-Craig, though. Both are hard-hitting safeties who have proven production.
Woods was second on the team last year with 84 tackles, despite missing two games, while adding five pass breakups and an interception. Silmon-Craig was second in tackles at Jackson State (63), while adding 5.5 tackles for loss and two interceptions.
“We have a lot of the same play style and it’s actually good because he’s more of a vocal guy,” Woods said. “So I don’t have to say as much when we get into a huddle. … We work really well together.”
Woods said he’s “more comfortable” now in covering receivers than he was in the past and that he was able to learn a lot from last year’s team struggles.
“Well, it definitely made me better at open field tackles,” he said. “But that was the whole adversity kind of thing (in 2022). Things are gonna turn around.”
To that point, Woods said he and other returning players have bought into the new coaching staff.
“With all the coaches, all these guys are NFL guys, guys who have had success,” he said. “You know that they’ve done it before, so you can really buy in and believe what they’re teaching us.”
Woods said he’s excited for the Coach Prime era and playing in front of the first sold-out spring game in CU history on April 22.
“It’s always great,” he said of having fans in the stands. “Even when we weren’t having success, we were getting a lot of fans in. If it can continue to be like that and even more, I mean, that’s what you live for, that’s what you play for. It’s awesome when you have thousands of fans rocking the stadium always.”
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