Sitting out steeled the resolve of Toledo's Logan Woodside
He could have bailed out and sought a program where he was the talented transfer brought in to run a team. Instead, Logan Woodside persevered and his patience paid off.
Woodside, Toledo’s red-hot junior quarterback, directs an offense posting video game numbers as the Rockets (4-1, 1-0 MAC) prepare to face arch-rival Bowling Green (1-5, 0-2 MAC) Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET on ASN at the Glass Bowl.
“I think the first five games we’ve had a bunch of good game plans,” Woodside said. “We’ve studied our opponents real hard. It’s fun to get out there and play on Saturdays.”
No one has more fun than Woodside, who is well-prepared for the opportunity. The 6-2, 205-pound product of Frankfort, Ky., is among the nation’s most effective quarterbacks, and the Rockets among the most productive offenses.
“Logan’s doing everything well right now, that you ask of a quarterback,” Toledo quarterbacks coach Brian Wright said. “He’s preparing throughout the week mentally, to get himself ready to play the best football on game day. He’s practicing really well throughout the week, as well. That’s putting him in position to really execute on game day.
“He’s delivering the football on time, making good decisions. I think that he has done an exceptional job of taking what the defense gives him, not only with what coverage the defense is in, but knowing where he needs to go with the football based off of that.”
Woodside’s path included plenty of hurdles. Following a freshman year in which he played four games, he saw the Rockets bring in Alabama transfer Phillip Ely. He lost preseason battles for the starting quarterback job to Ely each of the past two years, and the staff chose to redshirt him last season.
“It was definitely frustrating,” Woodside said, “but at the end of the day, I just tried to (have) a positive impact to the team and knowing that my opportunities would come again in the future.”
Sitting out tested his resolve, particularly after playing 10 games in 2014 when Ely went down with a season-ending injury in September.
“I definitely matured a lot as a person, on and off the field,” he said. “I kind of took on more of a coaching role last season. I knew all the plays that were getting called during the games, even though I was on the sideline. I was able to analyze that on the sideline and try to get better in practice and still be able to have an impact.
“It’s not really the ideal situation, but then again I didn’t want to take a risk of going to another school. This is where I committed myself for the next four or five years, so I just knew it was a learning experience. I definitely learned a lot and got better from it, for sure.”
Woodside is second nationally in pass efficiency (204.0), just behind Washington sophomore Jake Browning. He’s fifth in completion percentage (.702), tied for third in touchdown passes (20) and 14th in passing yardage (1,691).
Lest you think his completion percentage and efficiency are a function of quick throws and short gains, he leads the nation in yards per attempt (11.2) by more than a yard, and is third in yards per completion (15.95). Seven of his 20 touchdown passes covered at least 30 yards, six more than 60 yards.
Woodside’s signature performance came against BYU in Provo, a wild 55-53 loss in which he completed 30 of 38 passes for a school-record 505 yards and five touchdowns.
The Rockets average 570 yards per game, third in the nation, and 43.2 points per game, which is 12th in the NCAA. They are ninth in pass offense (350.6) and lead the country in third down conversions, at a gaudy 56.8%.
Woodside said he pays little attention to individual stats, judging performance on execution.
“I just worry about winning football games,” he said.
Woodside operates behind a veteran offensive line that’s given up just three sacks and opens holes for MAC-leading rusher Kareem Hunt (554 yards) and a ground attack averaging 219.4 yards per game and 4.9 yards per carry.
“It’s really pick your poison, I think, when you’re trying to defend us,” Wright said, “because we have a lot of weapons, and Logan has time to sit back there and throw the football downfield because of the offensive line we have. He’s exceptional, but we have an offense that’s exceptional, that’s really made it that way where we can throw the football downfield and average what we’re averaging per catch and per attempt.”
The Rockets’ stingy defense also gives Woodside and the offense ample opportunities. Though they haven’t hit the halfway point of their schedule yet, they lead the conference in total defense (331.6 ypg), are second in scoring defense (21 ppg) and are third nationally in opponents’ third-down conversions (19.4%), trailing only Michigan and Virginia Tech.
But it’s Toledo’s offense that stresses and stretches opponents. If teams cannot slow the Rockets, they’re forced to keep up. And everyone involved is confident that there’s more to come.
“The moment that you think you can’t improve is when you start going downward,” Woodside said. “Every day in practice we’re working on little things to get better, and I definitely don’t think as an offense and a whole team that we’ve played a full game, a full 60 minutes. So that’s something we’re still continuing to strive for and get better at.”
Photo courtesy JP Waldron