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Ryan Shazier: "I Can Also Play Inside ‘Backer"

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Ryan Shazier: "I Can Also Play Inside ‘Backer"

In the world of football, Ryan Shazier is a speed merchant. The two-time All-American from Ohio State uses his god-given talent to knife his way between blockers and make more plays than most linebackers could only dream of.

Because of this innate ability, Shazier knows is best fit in the NFL is probably as a weakside linebacker in a 4-3 defense, but he's not about to close the door on other opportunities that come his way.

"My speed is what I’m known for," said Shazier at the NFL Combine. "But I can also play inside ‘backer and do everything they want me to do."

That's good news as it relates to the Green Bay Packers, a team that is blurring the lines between 3-4 and 4-3 defensive fronts after the offseason addition of Julius Peppers in free agency.

Indications are that the Packers will remain a 3-4 team with B.J. Raji manning the nose tackle but will employ some new-look, four-man fronts with Peppers and others playing a hybrid end/linebacker "Elephant" position, particularly when they're in their nickel and dime subpackage looks.

A majority of the time, however, it would appear as if the Packers plan to keep two inside linebackers on the field, as they did most of last season with A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones as the preferred starters.

Hawk had one of the most productive seasons of his career in 2013, but Jones played in just 12 games because of a variety of injuries and only had a moderate impact. It stands to reason the Packers could use an upgrade at the position if the team has any designs on improving upon their ranking of 25th in the NFL in total defense last season, allowing an average of 372.3 yards per game.

With the 21st selection in the first round, one option to improve the defensive side of the football would be by selecting Shazier, should he be available, despite the somewhat less than ideal fit as an inside linebacker.

At 6' 1" and 237 lbs., Shazier is perhaps slightly undersized, but ask him who his favorite linebacker in the NFL is, and he'll tell you Patrick Willis. After letting that sink in, suddenly fears about Shazier's size begin to dissolve.

Willis is 6' 1" and 240 lbs., the same height and just three pounds more than Shazier. If Willis can be a seven-time Pro Bowler as an inside linebacker in the San Francisco 49ers 3-4 defense at that size, it isn't a stretch to think Shazier could succeed in a similar role.

"At the end of last season, I was about 228," said Shazier. "I’m about 237 now. I like where I’m at right now. Even if I can gain a little more, that would probably help. But I like where I’m at. I feel exactly the same. I have to continue to put it on the right way, not sloppy weight, and I feel I can maintain the speed and power I have."

The added weight didn't appear to slow Shazier at his pro day workout at Ohio State, where he clocked in as low as 4.35 seconds in the 40-yard dash, according to Gil Brandt of NFL.com.

One concern with Shazier has been a troublesome left hamstring that prevented him from running the 40 at the NFL Combine and was aggravated after only one attempt in the 40 at his pro day. As Brandt notes, Shazier suffered only a strain and not a pull as initially feared.

The hamstring certainly didn't seem to hinder Shazier at the Combine where he participated in the vertical jump and leaped 42 inches, the highest among more than 300 players invited, regardless of position. His 130-inch broad jump was also the best among linebackers.

Considering the explosiveness that Shazier displays in his jumping ability, it shouldn't come as a surprise that he was able to make 40.5 tackles for a loss over the past two seasons at Ohio State, a period in which the Buckeyes went 24-2.

During his 2013 season as a junior, Shazier made144 total tackles, seven sacks and four forced fumbles before declaring for the NFL Draft.

The Packers tend to draft players with exceedingly few character risks in the first round under general manager Ted Thompson, and Shazier would seem to fit that same mold.

The son of the team chaplain of the Miami Dolphins tries to live his life in a way that isn't at odds with his given profession.

"I’m a person of integrity and faith, and I’m a disciplined player and person," said Shazier. "I try to live by those three rules in life. I want to show that to (teams)—off the field and on the field."

Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor of Cheesehead TV's "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email carriveau@uwalumni.com.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (43) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

RC Packer Fan's picture

Yeah, I have said for a while now, to not be surprised if the Packers took Shazier at 21.

His speed would add a lot to the ILB position. Packers definitely need an upgrade at ILB, and Shazier would provide that.

I'd be very happy if the Packers got Shazier in round 1 and Deone Bucannon in round 2.

L's picture

Those would be two nice picks IMO.

Evan's picture

I wonder if their 3rd round comp pick makes a trade up more likely.

I can see a scenario where they grab Mosley or Shazier at #21 and if a Bucannon or Pryor is still there in the late 30s/early 40s, maybe using their first 3rd round pick (#85) to move up from #53 and grab one of them. That'd leave them with #98.

To grab one of Mosley/Shazier and either Bucannon/Pryor would be a steal.

jh9's picture

I'm with you, Evan. If Mosley isn't available in the 1st round, we should pick Shazier. In the 2nd round I doubt Pryor will be available, but Bucannon should be.

RC Packer Fan's picture

I can definitely seeing that happen.
That's the power of that comp pick. it gives Thompson the extra pick to trade his other picks to move up and not really lose anything.

If they came away with Mosley or Shazier and Bucannon or Pryor, I would absolutely love it. I would be happy with Jimmy Ward also in the 2nd round if they missed out on Pryor and Bucannon.

the real russ letlow's picture

we haven't done real well with balky hamstrings lately, but this is a talented linebacker who would immediately upgrade our LB crew.

HankScorpio's picture

4.35 in the 40? Is that a misprint?

DBs or WRs would love to post a time like that.

4thand1's picture

That is fast. I'm a little skeptical.

Clay Zombo's picture

Shazier could end up being drafted in the top 15 like Bruce Irvin did just because hes such an explosive athlete. That would suck because Im really starting to like this player.

What I like most about the guy is his patience in the run game, he takes time to make his read then uses his speed to beat the RB to the hole. He can also blitz and cover in the passing game.

Lots of big play potential with this player.

DrealynWilliams's picture

True. On top of that,Shazier is an all-around better player/playmaker than Irvin is/was.

Stroh's picture

Irvin plays a premium position, He's a DE/OLB pass rusher. Shazier is a 43 OLB or 34 ILB. The difference is what will cause Shazier to be drafted later. Pass rushers are at a huge premium to teams and led to Irvin being valued a lot higher.

Shazier can rush the passer, but not nearly like Irvin can and the position he plays isn't valued as highly. Shazier is a better all around player especially in regards to pass coverage, but his value won't be like that of Irvin.

ben's picture

It does feel like a lot like going into the 2012 draft. Maybe the freakiest athlete in the draft, at a position of great need for the pack, with a realistic chance of being there for the Pack in round 1.

Irvin was my #1, Perry a close #2.

Hopefully his skill set isn't valued as highly like Stroh says, he's there at 21, and Ted takes him.

CaptainLou's picture

Other reasons to pick Shazier over Mosley, even if Mosley is still available, are that (A) Mosley has a much longer injury history than Shazier, even with the recent hamstring issues, and (B) Bama defensive guys have really stunk at the pro level over the past few years.

COW's picture

For the life of me I can't tell why Mosley is so consistently "rated" higher than Shazier.

He's slower, less explosive, has a longer injury rap sheet, and is about the same size as Shazier.

Stroh's picture

Production and instincts. CBS thinks he's the most instinctive LB to come out of college, maybe ever. Shazier running 4.4 might start to change the rankings a bit tho. Mosley is considered one of the players that will be able to step into a playmaking role almost immediately. He's got terrific ability in run D and is the best coverage LB in the draft. He doesn't have Shaziers explosiveness but everyone knows they'll get a playmaker if they draft him.

His injury history is starting to knock him down draft boards somewhat tho.

4thand1's picture

Funny, not long ago you were drooling all over Mosley.

ben's picture

I'm not big on Mosely, but I can see Capers and the Packers going GaGa over Mosely's effectiveness dropping into zones in coverage. They really seem to covet that ability especially with their ILBs and Nickle & Dime CBs. Probably due to so much zone blitz.

I wish we would man up a little bit more this year and play more and more man and press. With Burnett used more over the top.

Stroh's picture

They play man coverage the VAST majority of the time. The CB's Shields, Tramon, Hayward, Hyde, House are in man probably more than 75% of the time. They typically play a some variation of whats called 2 - Man coverage. Where the recievers are covered man to man by someone all over the field and the Safeties are in a 2 deep zone over the top and sometimes the ILB are in a shorter zone. Even the TE's are covered in man to man, usually either by a Safety or LB (sometimes both as in the case of a Graham or Gonzo). Hyde is perfect covering TE's IMO, which is also what Woodson did his last year when he was a Safety.

ben's picture

I wasn't trying to imply the Packers don't play Man most of the time, I'm assuming ALL NFL team do. I'm also assuming the Packers have played a higher percentage of Zone than the average NFL team the last few years. w/ "Don Caper's Zone-Blitz Scheme"

Whatever percentage they do play Man, I wish they'd play more. Like you say Hyde excels at it. Shields, House, Tramon, Matthews, Jones also. And an NFL football field can quickly become a large space to cover with 5-8 guys.

Stroh's picture

Not all NFL teams play mostly man. A lot of them play zone more than man. The Tampa 2 is strictly a zone cover scheme. And there are others. I don't know how many are predominantly man or zone. Also there are some man coverages that look like zones at the LOS. Off man when the CB isn't in press at the Line, but the CB trails the WR. There's also some teams that play combo coverages with a mix of man and zone principals on each play. Its hard to tell sometimes for you and I. Only the guys that have played can really tell sometimes. Tramon is really adept at off man coverage, House and Shields are great in press man for different reasons.

The Packers mix coverages, but they are a man cover team more than most teams.

ben's picture

It isn't difficult for me to tell between man and zone coverage.

Just because you have a safety or safeties over the top doesn't mean your not playing man coverage. Tamp 2 is NOT strictly a zone cover scheme.

I still say most if not every single NFL team plays more man coverage than zone and that Don Caper's Zone Blitz Scheme plays more than it's fair share of zone.

Stroh's picture

I said the combo coverages are hard to tell if its man or zone. And that's the idea... It has both man and zone principals and really its almost an amoeba type thing. Straight man and straight zones are relatively easy once the play starts, not so much at the LOS pre snap.

The Tampa 2 is strictly a zone coverage. It uses the CB in press at the LOS to attempt to disrupt the timing, slow the release of the WR and allow the others to drop into their zones, but they are playing a zone coverage. Its called a Tampa 2, or Cover 2, and consists of 2 deep safeties and 5 under all in zone coverage. The MLB can run deeper than the other 4 which can turn it into what looks like 3 deep, but it depends on if there are any seam routes (particularly TE's) deep between the safeties. Packers note. A lot of times when you see Hawk running behind a TE into the deep middle, its because its his job. The safeties have the over and the idea is to create a very small window for the QB to throw into. Sometimes the throw can beat the coverage, but its a difficult throw.

Matt Bowen, former Packer safety wrote a series of great articles a couple years ago on the popular coverages and how to beat them. Here's the one on the Tampa 2 beaters. Great and informative articles... Highly recommended reading.

http://www.nationalfootballpost.com/Inside-the-playbook-defeating-the-Ta...

ben's picture

Shazier would fit in with the Pack as a complimentary coverage linebacker, the majority of downs - passing downs. He also might just be the prospect Don Capers had in mind when he started using LBs as "Okie" Safeties.(not Psyho, my bad). With the versitility in scheme the Packers seem to want to use, Ryan Shazier could be a NEAR every down defender for the Packers giving him ultimate value with the 21st pick. From what MM has been saying, he's already looking at rotating Hyde between safety and corner.

That said, I think Kyle VanNoy is the 2nd best all-around 3-4 ILB in the draft, 2nd to Khalil Mack.(maybe not as good as a NFL 3-4 OLB) VanNoy's production is incredible and his athletic instinctive tape is soo good. FOR ME, he may be the greatest defensive playmaker in the draft.

http://draftbreakdown.com/video/kyle-van-noy-vs-texas-2013/

Stroh's picture

Van Noy is too soft. Particularly in the run game. He's good in coverage and decent blitzing but not that good. Mosley is easily the best LB in coverage in the draft, man or zone. I think Mack might make an excellent 34 ILB, but his pass rushing is going to mean teams will play him at OLB, since pass rush is at a premium.

Mosley and Shazier are easily the 2 best 34 ILB in the draft.

ben's picture

What I like most about VanNoy are his instincts and the way he gets off blocks. He swims by or sheds would be blockers to make soo many more plays than Mosely. Mosely couldn't remind me more of AJ Hawk when taking on blocks. VanNoy is Great in Man coverage. Mosley might be better in Zone coverage. VanNoy is indisputably the better pass rusher. He also has indisputably been less injury prone.

I agree and don't see VanNoy as a great edge rusher, but his skill-set lends itself to being a much better 3-4 ILB in the NFL than Mosely, or the superior-athletic Ryan Shazier for that matter.

Mack isn't necessarily known for his pass rush ability. He's more known for his overall instincts as an all-around football player. He excels in coverage, he's tremendous in run support and his game might most resemble Patrick Willis. If Mack is drafted by a number of teams, including the packers, Mack is a 3-4 ILB.

Khalil Mack is easily a better 34 ILB than Mosely or Shazier.

It is my own personal opinion, Kyle VanNoy is too. Although Shazier has the upside and instincts to be as good as anyone, including Khalil Mack.

Stroh's picture

I didn't say Mack is "known" for his pass rushing. Simply that his ability as a pass rusher is what teams will draft and use him for. He might end up making a better ILB than Mosley or Shazier, but teams aren't going to use a top 5 pick on him to play him as an ILB. They will draft and use him that high for his pass rush more than anything, so he'll play either 34 OLB or 43 DE in the NFL. He should be an OLB in a 34 D. He might make a great ILB, but that won't be his position.

Mosley isn't great at disengaging yet, but he has the long arms that'll make him much better at it w/ some work. He won't be like Hawk (short arms) that way for long. Just needs technique work.

If we don't get Mosley or Shazier in Rd 1, I can live with VanNoy or Christian Jones in the 2nd. Van Noy is a good player in rd 2. IMO he's not nearly a 1st rd talent. More late 2nd.

ben's picture

I don't think arm length has been AJ's problem in beating blocks. More of a mental thing in his approach, engaging the blocker instead anticipating the block and just beating it.

But I must say he has seemed more aggressive the last year or 2. Is kicking a little more ass and flying around a little bit.

Stroh's picture

I read Hawks arm length was in the bottom 20% of ILB in the NFL. I have to think that has quite a bit to do with it.

ben's picture

(OFF TOPIC)

Does anybody know if we can plan on Tramon being on the team this year? Has the time come and gone for any (re)negotiation? Is he still releasable? when & with what consequenses?

Anybody

4thand1's picture

We'll know after the draft.

Stroh's picture

I think there's a strong case to be made for extending him for another 2 yrs. He showed end of last year once he was fully healthy he was still a starting NFL CB. He played w/ the physicality he lost after the shoulder and made plays similar to '10. If they can get him to renegotiate another 2 yrs, that would be ideal.

Given that Hayward is coming off a season ending injury and is best suited in the slot, keeping Tramon a couple more years makes the most sense.

ben's picture

I'm a fan of Tramon Williams. But I'd probably rather just honor his existing contract than "commit" long-term. Unless they can structure it in a way where releasing him in the next year or 2 or 3 wouldn't hurt. He's 31 and used to run 4.57. Then again this is a passing league and Tramon's a solid all-around corner and a Super Bowl Champion.

I like what I saw from Tramon from the slot or nickel last year, particularly getting to the quarterback. If Hayward isn't healthy, I'm perfectly fine with House outside and Tramon or Sammy in the slot.

I still have high hopes for Davon House. I think he has the tools to be one of the better man/press cover corners. I hope he gets a another legit opportunity this year and gets his shite together.

Stroh's picture

He's too old to get a long term contract. A 2 yr extension would be the most the Packers would commit to. Just depends on the money involved to renegotiate him. If he wants more than a 2 yr extension, the Packers won't give it to him.

I've been a big fan of Davon House since before he was drafted. I hoped the Packers would consider drafting him as early as the 2nd rd. Was happy as hell when they got him in the 4th. This is a big year for him... If he cleans up his game, it would make it much more likely they move on w/o Tramon and save a lot of cap space. To date House hasn't done enough to convince me he can hold a starting job. This year will decide it...

ben's picture

I'm sticking with my guy House & renewing my prediction from the beginning of last year, "House will be a top 15 corner by the end of the season."

(with slightly less conviction that is)

Jordan's picture

While it's true Tramon Williams ran something like a 4.57 or 4.58 at his proday.....But the packers timed him sub 4.5 at their workout for him.

Tramon Williams was never the best 40 guy, but he was still arguably one of the fastest guys on the field (or the NFL for that matter) with a running start. Tramon Williams had makeup speed......once he got up to speed and could catch 99 percent of NFL receivers from behind.

If you ever want to see the most impressive demonstration of his pursuit speed, you'd have to go back to circa 2007 and look at him on punt return coverage. It's jaw dropping. At that time, his pursuit speed was without a doubt the fastest in the NFL (except for maybe Nick Collins).

There's a reason Tramon Williams doesn't stay flat footed at the snap of the ball (like shields does) it's because his speed is not good flat footed, but more than adequate as long as he's in motion even at the age of 31.

But ultimately his footwork is still there to save him for at least another year.

Unfortunately Hayward is not a good fit for the Packers (capers) when facing many teams due to his lack of physicality. The packers need a physical player there. He's probably a little better than Hyde in coverage, but his lack of physicality nullifies that advantage......when playing that close to the line of scrimmage.

HankScorpio's picture

Williams is definitely releasable. They would gain anywhere from $7.5 mil to $6.9 mil of cap space, depending on the timing of a roster & workout bonus. They can cut him as late as final cut downs and get that $6.9 mil back. Since this is the last year of his deal, there are no future dead money considerations. So the Packers can do whatever they want pretty much whenever they want.

My opinion is that he'll be starting @ CB under the terms of his deal now for 2014. I think if they were going to do something, they would have done it by now. But if there is some debate inside the Packer offices, I can see TC being closing arguments. I see no reason the status quo would change before then.

ben's picture

I've been thinking he had 2 years remaining on his current contract. That gives the Pack some valuable flexibility. And I guess that's why we'll know after the draft. Even James Nixon coming back from injury COULD influence that decision. Nixon has shown a feel for the game and is an absolute freak, http://www.nfldraftscout.com/ratings/dsprofile.php?pyid=83863&draftyear=....

If we end up with CB Jason Verrett in the draft, I'd be fine letting Tramon walk and saving $7,000,000. If we somehow end up with both Jason Verrett and Phillip Gaines, see you later Tramon Williams.

Verrett and Gaines attach themselves to receivers. Gaines tape is really impressive. Verrett's tape is unbelievable, game after game.

Verrett: (pick any game of Verrett's the last 2 years and it's the same. The 2nd http:// is an interview with Jason I like as much as his tape. )
http://draftbreakdown.com/video/jason-verrett-vs-texas-tech-2012/
http://www.stlouisrams.com/media-center/videos/NFLCombine-TCU-CB-Jason-V...
http://draftbreakdown.com/video/jason-verrett-vs-baylor-2013/
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XqLiAVGkVXo
http://draftbreakdown.com/video/jason-verrett-vs-oklahoma-state-2013/
http://draftbreakdown.com/video/jason-verrett-vs-texas-2013/

CB:Phillip Gaines gave up only 13 completions all of last year.
http://draftbreakdown.com/video/phillip-gaines-vs-la-tech-2013/ nearly flawless, http://draftbreakdown.com/video/phillip-gaines-vs-marshall-2013/ also nearly flawless.

ben's picture

not that I wouldn't rather get Shazier

Stroh's picture

Tramon's contract would carry 2M in dead money if he's released before the season.

http://www.spotrac.com/nfl/green-bay-packers/tramon-williams/

He played very good football the last half of last year. IMO they were going to move on from him after this year, but his play when he was healthy was comparable to his '10 season. It'll come down to money of course, but IMO it would make sense to renegotiate him down a little and extend him.

HankScorpio's picture

Stroh,

In addition to the $2 mil in prorated signing bonus, he does also have those 2 bonuses this offseason totalling $600k. I don't know when they are paid but I would guess the roster bonus is paid and the workout bonus is not yet paid. If true, the dead money is $2.3 mil now and will jump to $2.6 mil later. Either way, that's all water under the bridge at this point. The real issue is dead money in future years. And there will be none.

I'm closer to your point of view than Ben's. Given what we saw last year, I consider Shields and Williams to be a good starting duo. Both make big money but that's ok. It is not out of line to make a heavy cap investment at the CB position. Having Hayward at CB on a rookie deal mitigates the big $$ to the 2 starters. And the Packers don't really need the cap space.

Where I diverge from your view is that I would not extend Williams. His age is to the point where I think he can be done any time now. I see no particular reason to expose future cap years to dead money. I think the Packers should decide about Williams in 2015 after the 2014 season plays out. I think there is a fair chance that Ben's view might be the right one.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Good point, Hank, about the bonuses. The Roster Bonus is paid on the date specified in the contract. Often, but not always, it is the ?th day of the league year, or early March. This forces the team to decide and allows the player if cut to have all of free agency to sign with another team. Early in FA is obviously better because teams have cap space then. If paid in August, the team doesn't have to decide until then, and it's much harder to the player to find a team that wants the player and has cap room still. Roster bonuses paid later are more team friendly. IDK when GB has to pay the Roster bonus to Tramon.

Workouts bonuses are for the 9-week workout period that usually begins in late March. Players have to attend for a percentage of the period, with the % specified in the contract. Teams have to cut the player before the workout period to save the cap dollars. Not sure if the team can cut the player while the player is working out but has not met the % specified in the contract. As a note, the NFL charges each teams $ (504K in 2013) for workout bonuses, and the cap is adjusted later depending on how many players fulfilled the workout bonus terms, so teams have $504K less in Salary Cap than is often reported.

As a note, CJ. Wilson's contract was probably a Veteran's "Qualifying Contract" wherein the player gets the full amount of the Vet min., but the cap hit is reduced to that of the minimum for a 2nd year player. This is done so that veteran players don't price themselves out of the market. The tipoff is the $65k bonus Wilson reported received. This is the maximum bonus that can be paid to a veteran and still allow the team to get the reduced cap hit.

So, we don't know w/o seeing the contract whether GB has paid the Roster and workout Bonus to Tramon yet. To my mind, he played up to his contract i.e. he is worth the money. BTW, if House blossoms, that's great but he is in a contract year. To resign him will take something approaching FA type money. Players have to contribute on the field in their 2nd, 3rd and certainly 4th years or they do not help a team manage the salary cap! Therefore, as a bean counter, I look on House as a disappointment.

$2 million dead money is a lot for GB. Most years TT's dead money is $2-3 mill for the whole team, not just for one player. They can always negotiate with Williams for an extension at lower base pay or use more incentives. Agree that any extension should be for 2yrs at most and leave little dead money in the 2nd year.

JimTaylor31's picture

I am in favor of keeping Tramon around as long as he can play at a high level. We need the experience. I remember TT picking Charles Woodson off the scrap pile when most people thought he was done or about done. I hope we don't make the same mistake Oakland did.

Jordan's picture

Well, there was some luck involved with TT signing Woodson. If Ahmad Carroll hadn't been a bust, I doubt TT would have signed him. Ahmad Carroll was a huge mistake on Sherman's part and TT was desperately trying to fix the mistake. He also drafted will Blackmon to cover himself.

TT would never sign a player like Woodson unless he was desperate. Woodson had an attitude problem....which is one of many reasons Oakland didn't attempt to sign him. Gruden (with Tampa bay) was familiar with Woodson and they were going to use him as a safety. It was unclear at the time if Woodson could return to his old form after all of his injuries (and missed games) and his attitude problem. Woodson made a tremendous amount of money in Oakland and was living the California party life of a very wealthy NFL player.

Woodson was routinely fined by McCarthy in GB during his first couple years. As you know, TT or McCarthy would never want to sign a player with an attitude problem no matter how good they were unless they were desperate.

So I guess we can thank TT, but we also need to thank Ahmad Carroll for being a first round bust. ;)

And just to add.....at the time, favre was upset because he didn't want to go through the rebuild process. He wanted to win now. Drafting Jennings was going to be a relatively quick fix of the javon walker debacle and Woodson was a quick fix for the Ahmad Carroll debacle. Favre announced his plan to return to GB on the same day Woodson agreed to go to GB.

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