Photo Credit: Clemson Athletics

Peter Woods ready to take next step as leader and player as sophomore season approaches

Peter Woods is no stranger to expectations. 

The Alabaster, Alabama, native has received plenty of buzz and expectations ever since high school, where he played at Thompson High School in his hometown. It earned him a five-star rating by Rivals, in addition to being ranked No. 9 by ESPN of the best prospects from the 2023 class without even playing a snap in Death Valley. 

But the hype was real, as the same has gone through his first year at Clemson and the same result has followed for the freshman: achieving success. A 2023 Freshman All-American a season ago, not many have had a better freshman season than Woods, who is only going to get better as he gets experience under his belt. 

However, the 6-foot-2, 315-pound standout shakes off the personal accolades instantly, looking at something else that is more important to him: team success and growth. While last season was finished strong by the Tigers, a 9-4 record to shape the 2023 season was the first time that Clemson had not won ten games or more since 2009. 

“Last season was, you know, underwhelming for everybody, but also, you can look at it as a lot of things you can fix and learn from, watching the tape and watching some of the things that we did during this time last year that we could have done better,” Woods said. “As much as it sucked having an ‘underwhelming’ season, or whatever you want to call it, there’s so much that we have learned and we are already starting to apply.” 

This offseason for Clemson is a tough one in terms of losing quality and experienced players, especially on the defensive line. This past season marked the end of the legendary careers of players like Tyler Davis, Ruke Orhorhoro, Justin Mascoll and Xavier Thomas. While these players are going into NFL workouts to prepare for the upcoming draft, the loss of experienced leaders leaves an opening for some new players to lead by example. 

Woods, only a rising sophomore, wants to take that responsibility going into future seasons. 

“I’m kind of a guy that just does stuff and kind of expects people to just follow me by example,” Woods said. “If I make sure that I am doing the right thing, and kind of showing the other guys what to do, there’s not really much to be said, besides from a motivation aspect.”

“Leadership looks like doing your part for the defense, and doing it passionately.” he added. 

Perhaps showing leadership means being flexible, which is what Woods intends on doing for this upcoming season. The team expects the freshman All-American to move from defensive tackle to defensive end, which Woods confirmed while speaking to the media last week, being opposite of fellow freshman standout T.J. Parker. 

“Primarily, that’s where I’m lined up, for the most part,” he explains. “[It’s] kind of a situational thing. Positional versatility has been a big thing, even throughout my recruitment, so it was not really surprising. It was actually something that I expected after having a year in the program. 

Woods has been in the process of cutting down to play that position, elaborating that reaching between the 285 and 290-pound mark is ideal for him.

“I can already feel it,” he said. “Just the fluidity playing the position, it feels good.”

Likewise, the Clemson standout emphasizes the importance of being a team player, later on talking about being flexible with wherever defensive coordinator Wes Goodwin needs him in the trenches. 

“Wherever I am needed is where I am going to play, as long as I am on that line,” Woods said. 

No matter where the rising sophomore fits into head coach Dabo Swinney’s depth chart, the Tigers should not worry about the production that he will bring. As a true freshman, Woods recorded 27 tackles with 2.5 being for a loss, as well as a forced fumble across 12 appearances for Clemson last season. 

Luckily for Clemson fans, next season’s goal is simple for the rising star, putting it simply as “to be better than last year,” describing himself as “more seasoned.”

“I know a lot more things, I’ve been in the program, I’ve got a year in college football,” Woods said. “So, just emerge as that defensive leader, kind of telling guys what to expect but also taking things that I’ve done and applying it.”

Whether moving to defensive end or playing in his original position at tackle for the Tigers next season, one thing is for certain for opposing teams: Peter Woods will be on their radar when opposing offenses take the field. 

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