J’Marick Woods spent this week getting ready to play football.
That’s how the safety spent last week, too, and how he’ll spend next week. Duke is set to play Notre Dame in its opener on Sept. 12 as part of a 10-game ACC schedule, plus one non-conference game. Right now, the ACC is staying the course.
Woods, who transferred to Duke from Michigan this winter, didn’t do so with the mere intention of having a football schedule to carry out. But in whatever comes of this college football season, where conferences are falling like dominos, it’s hard to overstate how much a victory it would be to just get on the field.
“It’s definitely a blessing to be one of the conferences that’s still playing,” Woods told The Daily. “I still got a lot of boys at Michigan and they tell me how they’re feeling. So I just take it as a blessing every day and never take it for granted.”
At Michigan, they’re still picking up the pieces after the Big Ten postponed the season. No one knows whether an attempt to play will come in the spring or winter. Two players, offensive tackle Jalen Mayfield and cornerback Ambry Thomas, have already declared for the NFL Draft. A number of others, including defensive end Kwity Paye, one of Woods’s good friends, are still deciding.
“I’m gonna stick around and just train for a couple amount of months and see where it goes from there in terms of me making a decision whether or not it is a spring season or not,” tight end Nick Eubanks said on a Zoom call with reporters last week. “I think I’ll make my decision by then and see where I go from there.”
While Michigan’s players are seeking answers, Woods is integrating with a new team. He had a few months in Durham, N.C. during the winter semester before the pandemic sent everyone home. He said he went through about three spring practices in addition to taking classes.
When he entered the transfer portal in October, Woods was recruited heavily by Illinois and Texas Tech, in addition to Duke. In more contemporary terms, that would give him a 2-in-3 chance of having a football season on his schedule right now.
He went with Duke because of the culture, and because of relationships that dated back to his recruitment in high school.
“Their packages definitely took (advantage of) my versatility as a player,” Woods said. “I cover, blitz, middle of the field, zone, everything. I definitely feel like they’re gonna give me and also my teammates, to the best of our abilities, put us in the best situation to make plays.”
Woods doesn’t have much to say about the Big Ten’s decision or the chances of the ACC making it through. He’s focused on the next game ahead — a cliche in normal times and a jarring statement from a college football player in 2020.
“Our coaches always tells us to play our cards that we’re dealt,” Woods said. “So right now, we’re dealt — we’re playing a season now. So I’m gonna get ready for Notre Dame.”