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2020 NFL Draft Interview: Introducing David Woodward, Utah State’s tackling machine

NCAA Football: Utah State at Louisiana State Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Utah State’s David Woodward was incredibly productive for the Aggies defense while serving as the heart and soul of their defense. Woodward served as their defensive anchor and unquestioned leader up the middle.

Woodward recently spoke exclusively with MCM about his tackling production, why he loves playing in coverage and how going up against Jordan Love every day in practice made him a better player.

JM: You had 93 total tackles in 2019 despite being limited to just seven games. While playing a full season of 12 games in 2018, you posted a ridiculous 134 tackles. How do you look back on the 2019 season?

DW: I think I had a great start to the season and I put a lot of good football on tape in a short amount of time. I think I did a great job going out there and showing what I can do. I was pretty productive through those first seven games as you said. I would have loved to have played the second half of the season but I think I played well in those seven games. I put some great things on tape for these NFL teams to watch. I think I showed some great improvement from the year before.

JM: The tackle numbers are just astounding. What is it about your game that allowed you to be so productive?

DW: I would credit the tackle numbers to playing behind a pretty great defensive line. They’ve done a great job keeping me clean throughout my entire time at Utah State. That’s the type of stuff that can lead to a lot of those tackles. I’ve been playing football since the first grade. I’ve played this game for so long and I’ve been tackling for so long that it just comes naturally to me. I’ve had a lot of reps and I’ve been studying the game for as long as I can remember. I do a good job diagnosing plays and I recognize things rather quickly. When you’ve played the game for a long time, the tackling aspect comes easy to you.

JM: It’s certainly paid off for you. What’s your favorite part about playing linebacker?

DW: I love tackling people (laughs). It goes back to the last answer. I played offense in high school and I’ve always enjoyed playing defense more than anything. There’s nothing like making a big play on defense. I enjoy that so much more than anything you can do on offense. It’s just more exciting to me. Coming up with a big hit or an interception is the most exciting thing to me.

JM: You’re a true linebacker through and through. A lot of people seem to consider you versatile enough to play both inside and outside linebacker. Do you have a preference going forward?

DW: I enjoy playing inside linebacker. I like being able to play up the middle and get sideline-to-sideline. Wherever I am on the field though, I just love playing football.

JM: What do you enjoy more, playing downhill or dropping back into coverage?

DW: Honestly? Probably dropping back in coverage. I obviously love to come downhill and play the run game. I love making a big play in the backfield as well but I played some safety in high school and I enjoy being able to cover like that. I think that helps my game a lot. Covering people is fun to do and I happen to be pretty good at it.

JM: How did going up against Jordan Love in practice every day help make you a better player?

DW: Having the opportunity to go up against someone like Jordan, there isn’t a throw he can’t make. He made all of us better because we didn’t really go up against any quarterbacks throughout the season as talented as he is. Some of the throws he makes in practice while you’re covering are truly special. It helped us adjust and play our game to the best of our ability. He definitely tested and improved all of our coverage skills.

JM: Thanks a lot for your time today, David. In closing, what kind of impact is David Woodward gonna make at the next level?

DW: I’m gonna make a huge impact for whichever team decides to give me a shot. I’m open to playing wherever they wanna use me. I’m capable of playing both inside and outside. I can make an impact on special teams as well. The film speaks for itself. I hope to get on the field pretty early on in my career and making my impact felt. They can trust me as a secure tackler and I can go in on third downs and play in the coverage game as well.