Jelani Woods is ‘0’ for a reason: Tight end is matchup nightmare

jelani woods
Jelani Woods. Photo courtesy UVA Athletics.

Jelani Woods only got two targets in the opener against William & Mary. He got that on the first drive in Virginia’s 42-14 win over Illinois in Week 2.

Brennan Armstrong found Woods over the middle for 31 yards on the first play from scrimmage. Later in the opening drive, Armstrong connected with Woods on a 32-yard TD pass.

For the day, Woods, the grad transfer from Oklahoma State, had five catches on six targets for 122 yards, a 91.9 Pro Football Focus grade, and Armstrong had a 158.3 NFL passer rating throwing in his direction.

Incidentally, a 158.3 rating is as high as the NFL scale goes.

“The first challenge is who do you match up with,” UVA coach Bronco Mendenhall said. “If you choose to put a linebacker on, and most likely he’s not as fast, and there aren’t many linebackers that are over six-foot-six. Then if you choose the secondary route, there’s not many secondary players that are six- seven, and they might be fast, but they probably don’t weight 250. And so really there’s a matchup issue, no matter what direction you go.”

That was the issue that Illinois had trying to match up. The Illini, early, loaded up the box to try to take away the run, for some unknown reason, maybe having to do with not reviewing tape of the W&M game, which left a single safety to cover the middle of the field.

Once Illinois adjusted, UVA offensive coordinator started moving Woods around, giving him eight snaps in the slot and one at wideout, matching him up with corners and safeties one-on-one.

“As he continues to master the position, as he continues to keep up with our pace and the conditioning and what it takes to go beginning to end in the game, then the production starts to climb –  which from Week 1 to Week 2, quite frankly, the shock and awe of the pace and then what that felt like to him and the adjustment and the recalibration was just kind of Week 1 to Week 2 where he’s just starting. There really isn’t a good matchup,” Mendenhall said.

Woods, after his big game, was given the honor to break the rock in the locker room after the win.

“That was just pretty much the best moment of my life right there, you know, being able to have an outstanding performance and just be recognized for that,” Woods said. “Just the history of the guys that previously before me broke the rock.  I just feel honored to be able to hold the hammer and break the rock.”

Story by Chris Graham

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