Charlotte Christian football coach Jason Estep predicts a breakout season for junior running back Justus Woods.
“He has the ability to be a great football player, and I think people are going to see him kind of jump on the scene,” Estep said.
Woods ran 91 times for 647 yards and seven touchdowns last season, averaging 7.1 yards per carry behind standout Elijah Deveaux, who signed with Duke.
With Deveaux’s graduation, Estep said he plans give Woods the ball 20-25 times per game.
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"He's a long, lean kid, very strong and his...speed is off the charts," said Estep, whose four-time CISAA conference championship team is ranked in the Observer's preseason Sweet 16 poll. "We have literally a home-run threat whenever he touches the ball.”
Estep said Woods has run the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds. He’s also grown an inch and added 15 pounds since last season, entering preseason at 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds. To gain that weight, Woods adopted a diet that includes eating every two hours - plenty of beef, vegetables and quinoa.
"My dad has me on this crazy weight plan," Woods said. "Sometimes, I've got to scarf it down, and sometimes I don't like eating, but my dad says, 'You want to get big, don't you?' "
Woods' size and skill have caught the attention of college coaches. He has scholarship offers from Elon, Wisconsin, Virginia and Northwestern. National recruiting website 247 Sports ranks him a 3-star recruit (out of 5) and the No. 39 running back recruit in the class of 2018.
It ranks Woods No. 16 in North Carolina among all positions in his class. Only one Mecklenburg County player is higher, Davidson Day quarterback Sam Hartman. Hartman, at No. 10 overall, committed to Wake Forest.
As for this season, Woods’ big goal is to help return Christian to the state finals, he said. After winning three straight private school championships, Christian was upset in the semifinals by Charlotte Latin last year.
"We're motivated by losing to Latin," Woods said. "That put a sour taste in our mouths and let us know we're beatable, even after the success we have had over the past couple of years. That made us hungry."
Wertz: 704-358-5133; Twitter: @langstonwertzjr
SWEET 16 PREVIEW: CHARLOTTE CHRISTIAN KNIGHTS
The Observer continues with previews of teams in its annual preseason Sweet 16 high school football preseason poll. The teams will be revealed in alphabetical order. The poll, with numerical order, will be released following the previews.
Head coach: Jason Estep (10th year; 78-27 overall)
2015 record: 7-4 (3-0 CISAA conference champions)
Key returning starters: Justus Woods, Jr., RB (6-2, 200); Garrett Shrader, So., QB (6-5, 200); Bryden Reed, Sr., DL (6-3, 245); Beau Suggs, Sr., FS (6-2, 180); Christian VanSickle, Sr., K/P (6-0, 180).
Key newcomers: Ricky Kofoed, So., LB/TE (6-3, 200); J.T. Killen, So., TE/LB (6-3, 200); Obi Egbuna, So., WR/DB (5-11, 170).
Returning starters: 9
Returning lettermen: 25
Outlook: The Knights were one win from playing for their fourth consecutive NCISAA Division I state title last season. This season, they look to return to the championship game behind sophomore quarterback Garrett Shrader and junior running Justus Woods.