USC DT Antwaun Woods is turning heads this spring

"I want to be accountable and (my team to) know that no matter what the "A" gaps are gone," said USC defensive tackle Antwaun Woods.

LOS ANGELES — Antwaun Woods has been at USC for four years now, but still he’s experiencing firsts.

On more than one occasion this spring USC head coach Steve Sarkisian has mentioned how impressed he’s been with the play of Woods. That was new for the Trojans defensive tackle, not just because Sarkisian is in his first year as head coach but because of the position he holds.

"It was good to get praised by a head coach," Woods said. "I never had that happen before (in college) so it was good to hear that."

You have to be a tough guy to do what Woods does. And he considers himself to be a tough guy.

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Lining up at nose tackle, he experiences double teams on just about every play. His job, regardless of the double team, is to disrupt to flow of the offense while owning the "A" gap.

It can often times be a thankless job. Nose tackles do a lot of the grunt work and if they perform their job well, it opens up things for other members of the defense to record sacks and make tackles — often times not having the opportunity to enjoy such success themselves.

All Woods has ever known in his football playing career is nose tackle but he never truly understood the significance of it until he got to college.

"Once I realized the important of the nose that’s when I took it, like personal," Woods said. "Just wanted to be the nose, wanted to do the grind work. I want to be accountable and (my team to) know that no matter what the "A" gaps are gone."

Woods has done a great job of that this spring but he hasn’t been just a "space eater," according to Sarkisian. Woods has been a "playmaker," prompting praise from not only his head coach but defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox as well.

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"How he prepares, how he works, his motor in practice, his attitude, I could go on and on," Wilcox said. "I’ve been extremely impressed with Antwaun."

Added Sarkisian: "Antwaun’s been, really, the standard on the defensive side of the ball all spring long."

If USC is going to grow off of its success defensively from last season, a huge reason will be because of its nose.

"In order to have a good defense, you have to have a good nose," Woods said. "It starts up front. I’m the middle of the defense."