SOPHOMORE emerges as leader for Cowboys

Saturday, August 11th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) _ Only a sophomore, receiver Rashaun Woods has shown the leadership of a veteran player for Oklahoma State.

As the Cowboys went through their summer workouts, senior linebacker Dwayne Levels and quarterback Aso Pogi took the lead, as expected. Levels is the most experienced member of the defense; Pogi has been a take-charge player since becoming the quarterback last season.

But right beside them was Woods, who according to other players was often the last person off the field. Coach Les Miles tells the story, related to him by a player, of Woods one day hollering at a teammate ``put your stinking hand on the line'' while running sprints.

``It's leadership, is what it is,'' Miles said.

Woods says it's simply a reflection of his desire to win.

``It came from, I guess, last year's 3-8 season,'' he said. ``Everybody picked it up. The intensity of the work during the summer was excellent.

``When I came out in the summer, I knew I had to work hard if I wanted to be the best I can be. And if I work hard, I want everybody else to work hard, and that's what we got this year.''

Woods is a player the Cowboys are expecting to lead on the field as well. He is part of a receiving corps that offensive coordinator Mike Gundy said should be outstanding. The group includes Willie Young, Gabe Lindsay, T.D. Bryant and junior college transfer John Lewis.

Gundy, who played four years at OSU and coached six more before returning this year, said he hasn't seen as gifted a group of receivers in his time with the school.

``When I played, we had (Hart Lee) Dykes and Curtis Mayfield, two or three guys. But we didn't have four or five guys we felt like could play,'' Gundy said.

``We've got guys that we feel like can make plays for us. I think that's where it's our job, to get the ball to them.''

Woods was second on the team last year with 29 catches, and his 329 yards were third-most. At 6-foot-2 and with good speed, he hopes to become a prominent part of the offense.

Miles is looking for someone to become a clear go-to player, as tight end Alonzo Mayes was when Miles was the offensive coordinator in 1997. Might it be Woods?

``I'm expecting that we'll be able to throw it to Rashaun,'' he said. ``I think he becomes predictably one of our go-to guys.

``I think there's others _ Willie Young, John Lewis. I think those guys are guys that we're going to have to throw 'em an opportunity to make a play. It'll be interesting to see how that all unfolds.''

Woods was redshirted in 1999 after signing out of Millwood High School in Oklahoma City. He was accustomed to success at that level and expected more of the same at Oklahoma State. But after winning their first two games a year ago, the Cowboys spiraled downward and coach Bob Simmons eventually lost his job.

Woods didn't want to go through such a disappointing time again, and proved it with his dedication during the offseason.

``The only thing I knew how to do was win,'' he said. ``Now when you're hit with adversity and you're losing, it's step up or shut up.''

Woods stepped up. Whether that translates into a breakthrough season for him remains to be seen.

``I set goals, but I guess right now the main goal is winning,'' he said. ``If we start winning, those other goals will fall in place.''