They are the big dogs in the Big South, the players mentioned regularly for preseason watchlists and awards. But quarterbacks Alex Ross of Coastal Carolina and Josh Woodrum of Liberty are quick to point out they are quite different.
“My offense is a pro-style offense, we like to run the ball first and then play action and get into some spread formations on passing downs,” Woodrum, a redshirt senior, said Thursday at Big South media day in Atlanta. “He’s more of a spread guy and I’m more of a pro-style guy.”
But the differences go beyond the style of offense both teams employ. Woodrum, at 6-3, 225 pounds, brings that “big man on campus” feel when he walks into the room. Ross, listed at 6-1, 205, is slight and unassuming.
Both however, have battled through injuries and illness at the end of last season. Ross dislocated his right shoulder during the first quarter of the FCS Tournament quarterfinal game against North Dakota State, yet continued to play on it throughout the loss. Surgery in December 2014 repaired the dislocation.
When he began throwing again four months later, there were doubts. “Any time you have surgery you think ‘Is my arm going to be the same?’ My friends would tease me, they’d say “Yeah, you’re not going to be able to throw the same ever again.” They’d mess with me. I’d start thinking sometimes, ‘What if I can’t throw the same as I used to?’”
But faith and a tough rehab have Ross feeling confident.
Woodrum also dealt with injury taking him out of the mix at the end of last season. A cut on his leg in the game against Monmouth, led to an infection that sidelined him for the final two regular season games, including a dramatic 15-14 victory over Coastal.
“I was looking forward to the Coastal game all year last year and then it happened the way it did that I wasn’t able to play against them so I’m really looking forward to getting an opportunity to go out there and the two best teams in our league going to duke it out for a championship.”
Woodrum helped ready redshirt freshman Stephon Masha before returning for the postseason.
“He’s always wants to be the best in the country; he’s always striving; always wanting to learn and talk football,” said Flames coach Turner Gill.
Woodrum even interviewed Ross on Thursday for a video package coming soon to LibertyFlames.com.
“(Both Ross and Woodrum) know how to win football games,” Gill said. “They have proven that over the 2-3 years they have been starters. They have helped their teams be conference champions. They are winners. That’s what you are looking for. They all got some stats and those things but the bottom line is they win with their football team.”
While fans may have been disappointed in not seeing the two top quarterbacks faceoff at the end of last season, they may watch a showdown for the conference title yet again in the final week of the season. Coastal plays at Liberty on Nov. 21 in what could decide the Big South’s big dog.
That loss to Liberty is part of Ross’ motivation. “You never like feeling like that after a game, especially having a perfect season on the line and homefield advantage in the playoffs. So, going into the season we’re really fired up, we’re really amped up. We want to be able to finish it this year, like we didn’t do in the last regular season game of last year.”
Ross said he’s working to make that a reality by upping his preparation. “I don’t think anyone in the country — FBS, FCS, Division II, Division III — I don’t think they prepare like I do. I feel like I am in that film room more than anyone in the country and a lot of times more than a lot of coaches.”
That preparation is what gives Chanticleers head coach Joe Moglia confidence in Ross. “One of Alex’s strengths is he is truly, genuinely a leader and Alex knows better than anyone that what happened a year ago is not going to have an impact this year.”