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April 18, 2012

Woodson takes next step towards becoming a coach

Andre Woodson is awfully quiet at football practice these days.

The former UK quarterback spent the 2011 season as a student assistant working with quarterbacks, spending his time coaching Maxwell Smith, Morgan Newton and Bookie Cobbins. But when he graduated in December, he had to take a role as a video analyst.

Now, he stands and watches. He's still at practice every day, but he's not permitted to do any actual coaching with his new position. He spends most days with the offensive linemen, watching coach Mike Summers and standing in as an extra body during drills.

It's part of a learning process for Woodson, who's hoping to embark on a coaching career soon. He goes to meetings with the offensive linemen and helps to break down film, learning the nuances of a new position.

"He's going to be a great coach one day," Summers said. "He's working hard now to gain the knowledge that it's going to take to be able to do that."

Woodson is expected to move into an offensive graduate assistant role this summer, where he'll be allowed to coach again. Head coach Joker Phillips thought Woodson could have been taken a job at a smaller school after the 2011 season, but Woodson wanted to stay and spend another year with the Wildcats.

He may continue to work with the offensive line as a graduate assistant, or he may move to another position. Regardless, he'll be one step closer to his dream.

"I've learned a lot since I've been here," Woodson said. "I wish I knew this much when I was playing, because I would have made a bigger step in getting us in and out of schemes and blocking fronts when I was playing quarterback."

Offensive coordinator Randy Sanders spent time at Tennessee coaching wide receivers, then running backs before becoming an offensive coordinator. Phillips spent a year at Cincinnati coaching defensive backs. Experience like that is valuable in helping a coach understand issues across an entire team, Sanders said.

After Woodson helped the quarterbacks in 2011, Sanders suggested he try a new position. While Sanders thought he might spend time with another skill position, Woodson was attracted to working with Summers, a veteran offensive line coach.

"I thought one of the best things he could do for his progression as a coach would be to work with some other positions," Sanders said. "For players, you have to push them beyond their comfort level to learn more things. It's the same thing with coaches."

The move wasn't as easy as Woodson thought it would be. Summers noticed Woodson was a little uneasy early on, but he was always enthusiastic.

Woodson had a cursory understanding of the blocking schemes and techniques used by offensive linemen, so he expected to pick things up quickly. But learning how an offensive line works as a unit to attack different defensive fronts was new to him. Instead of focusing on one player at a time, he had to look at five.

"When we first started, I thought I really had a good feel for everything that was going on," Woodson said. "As soon as (Summers) started speaking, I felt like he was speaking a different language. I couldn't keep up the first day."

His dream is to be an offensive coordinator one day. He may be able to take an assistant coaching job by the end of the 2012 season. Ultimately, he would "love" to return to the Wildcats as a coach, though that would likely be years away.

He already has the attitude and the leadership skills, Summers said. Everything else comes down to how much he can learn and the opportunities that come his way.

"The thing that comes out about Andre is how strong his character is and how much he cares for the players," Summers said. "I can't think of two better qualities to have when you're trying to be a football coach."


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