Brown: Woods embraces opportunity at Tight End U.
IOWA CITY, Ia. – LeVar Woods didn't see it coming.
"I would be lying if I said I wasn't shocked," Woods said.
He didn't expect Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz to approach him more than a month ago and tell him he was moving to the other side of the ball.
Woods and the linebacker position have been joined at the hip since LeVar first put on shoulder pads. He played the position well enough to earn all-state honors at West Lyon of Inwood and receive a scholarship at Iowa. He later played the position for seven NFL seasons before returning to his alma mater as an administrative assistant.
When Woods started to coach linebackers three seasons ago, he was back in his comfort zone. But Ferentz made Woods his tight ends coach this spring.
"It's a great opportunity," Woods said. "I get to coach tight ends at one of the greatest schools for tight ends in the country."
Eleven tight ends who have played at Iowa during the Ferentz era have made it to an NFL roster. Woods inherits three of the top four tight ends from last season's team in Jake Duzey, Henry Krieger-Coble and George Kittle. And he adds redshirt freshman Jon Wisnieski and sophomore Peter Pekar.
Woods does have some experience at tight end. He played the position on the scout team as a redshirt freshman in 1997. Woods said that experience helped him as a defender, because it gave him insight into what the offensive player was trying to accomplish.
As Woods went into spring practice during his redshirt freshman season, he was told tight end would be his position for good if things didn't work out for him on defense.
"But it worked out," Woods said. "The rest is history."
But now the script has been flipped again. A.J. Hernandez, a graduate assistant, handled tight ends last season. But during the offseason, Ferentz came to the conclusion that the position needed the attention of a full-time staffer since the Hawkeyes use multiple tight ends on a majority of the snaps.
"LeVar is all the things that I thought he was when we hired him," Ferentz said. "It's kind of like recruiting: You never know until you get a guy in there. But I think it's going to be good for his career, too, to be on the other side of the ball."
Woods has been a sponge to all things tight end since taking over the position.
"Change is good," Woods said. "Change makes you a better person."
Woods recently spent some time in Tallahassee, Florida, picking the brain of Florida State tight ends coach and former Minnesota head coach Tim Brewster about that position. And he's also not afraid to listen to his own players.
Woods told his seniors, Duzey and Krieger-Coble, to speak up if he tells them something wrong.
"They have done that," Woods said. "But mainly they have been a good sounding board and a good resource to help (install) some of these plays and (educate others on) what the tight end is responsible for."
As a linebacker, Woods hated running into a tight end who was physical and wanted to knock his head off at the line of scrimmage.
"That's what I want the Iowa tight ends to be," Woods said.
No shocker there.
Hawkeye columnist Rick Brown is a 10-time Iowa Sportswriter of the Year. Follow him on Twitter: @ByRickBrown.