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Ducks waiting on Woods to develop

So far, JC transfer has had a tough transition at UO

EUGENE Ñ The Oregon Ducks went to such lengths to recruit cornerback Rodney Woods, you'd think he'd be the next Deion Sanders. Woods has started four games, but he hasn't been an impact player, and only time will tell if he becomes one, coach Mike Bellotti says.

'I didn't know if he'd be a great player,' Bellotti says. 'I knew he was a good player, with the potential to be a very good player.'

Woods is from Fresno City College and, like many junior college players, arrived in Eugene way behind others in the Duck system. He needed to shed bad junior college football habits and establish an NCAA Division I work ethic.

It hurt Woods greatly that he had to finish course work to become eligible to enroll at Oregon, and thus missed spring practice.

The junior played in nickel and dime situations in the first five games and started the next four, although a neck injury limited his time against Stanford and Washington. He sat out the final three games, the last two 'totally healthy Ñ he just got beat out by Justin Phinisee,' Bellotti says.

He'll benefit from spring football, Bellotti says. 'Now he knows what to expect from this level of football, the speed and athleticism of people you play against. And the mental discipline and toughness it takes to play.'

Bellotti and defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti will forever be linked with Woods Ñ they were roundly criticized for bringing him to Oregon in the first place.

The two coaches vouched for Woods when he successfully sought to have a felony assault conviction reduced to a misdemeanor, making him eligible to enroll at Oregon.

It was a risk to show such faith in a player once implicated in another high school student's death in suburban Los Angeles.

'He's been a great kid,' Bellotti says.

'I felt Rodney deserved a chance, and whether or not he's a good football player or great football player is up to him,' Bellotti says. 'It's not something that will determine whether it was worth it (to sign him) or not. I think we're past that.'

The defensive backs who practiced the best played the most, according to secondary coach John Neal's rules.

'Phinisee got his opportunity and stepped up and helped the team,' Woods says. 'That's why I'm not really frustrated. As long as we're winning, I'm OK.'