Woods tries his hand at defensive side

After back-to-back losses, USC is looking to make some changes and get back on track this weekend against California. One of these changes involves the possibility of freshman wide receiver Robert Woods getting a chance to play on both sides of the ball.

Multi-talented · Freshman receiver Robert Woods, who had 12 catches for 224 yards and three touchdowns against Stanford and scored on a kickoff return against Minnesota, has been getting reps at defensive back in practice this week. - Mannat Saini | Daily Trojan

The Trojans seem to need some playmakers on defense, and that’s exactly where Woods fits the profile.  He plays on three different units and has scored a receiving and kickoff return touchdowns. He played both offense and defense in high school, and it looks as though the coaching staff is testing the possibility of that continuing throughout college — something Woods said he was glad to hear.

“I was pretty happy, smiling. It was one of my goals coming out of high school to play both ways,” Woods said.

Woods has been practicing with the defense since Tuesday, running one-on-ones and seven-on-sevens. USC coach Lane Kiffin has made it clear that he is taking this new idea with Woods very seriously, and plans to utilize his skills throughout his college career, not just this season.

“Here’s somebody who was a very great player on defense in high school as well and who we’re always going to look to for as many things as we can,” Kiffin said. “Especially with him being a freshman it’s going to continue down the road. We discussed before, with the probations and sanctions, the possibility of guys playing both ways, and he’s kind of the first guy that we’re looking at.”

As for Woods, he’s feeling good about his opportunity. Not only would he get the chance to make some key plays and grab some interceptions, but he said playing defensive back would help him in terms of his offensive ability as well.

Woods has gotten a lot thrown at him in a week by the coaching staff, but everyone seems excited about the possible change.

“They only gave me one task this week: to play my man and get the ball,” Woods said.

Now that USC has tested Woods as a player who can work on both sides of the ball, the only question that remains is whether or not he will be used defensively against Cal.

After the loss to Stanford, when the Trojans were defeated on the last play for the second week in a row, both critics and fans have questioned if the team could stay motivated.

The last time USC has been in this situation was back in 2001. Kiffin, however, said he was happy with the attitude at Wednesday’s practice.

“It’s been great,” he said. “I don’t think you can tell from them whether we won or lost the game. It’s not any different to me, and it’s not any different in practice. It’s just the same as the week before. I’m not worried about that — we just need to show up to play on Saturday.”

However, USC is concerned about injuries. Many players did not practice or were limited at Wednesday’s practice, but Kiffin is trying to look past that and just play who he can.

“We’ll take anybody that can play. We’re not going to rest somebody right now,” Kiffin said. “We can’t afford [to].”