Fells and Woods form strong bond for upcoming season

Andrew Harner and Andrew Harner

Football coach Dave Clawson encourages his players to spend time together off the field in hopes it will translate to on-the-field success.

“Teams that play well together usually play well together off the field too,” Clawson said. “When guys don’t hang with each other except the three hours that they’re here every day, it will show up on the field.”

Part of that process includes assigning freshman “big brothers” when they first arrive at camp.

When linebacker Dwayne Woods Jr. began his career with the Falcons in 2009, Eugene “Champ” Fells was assigned to be his big brother.

Fells — now a senior — told Woods he needed to settle in with the team and do his job every single day, even if it was a backup role. That lesson stuck, as Woods worked hard and is expected to start alongside Fells this season.

“He’s going to do a lot of good stuff for us,” Fells said.

The team got a preview of that “good stuff” this past season when the sophomore played in 13 games, making 24 tackles and hurrying the quarterback twice playing as a backup to three seniors — Jerett Sanderson, Cody Basler and James Schneider.

Clawson said losing that senior experience and the team’s top three tacklers hurts, but he doesn’t foresee any trouble with the 2010 linebacking corp.

“We lost a lot of experience,” Clawson said. “I’ve said this all along — what we lose in experience, I hope we make up for in athleticism.”

The third starting linebacker spot is still up for grabs, but senior Calvin Marshall is the early favorite, and Clawson is counting on Fells to be the leader no matter who ends up starting.

“Champ is a very charismatic guy,” Clawson said. “His teammates really like him. He’s got some natural leadership.”

His charisma and his playing ability qualify him as a leader, but it’s his ability to identity strengths and weaknesses that will make him a great one.

In fact, Fells is already on the same page as Clawson when it comes to knowing how to overcome losing three seniors.

“The biggest difference is that we have a lot of younger guys, but at the same time, I think we have more speed,” Fells said. “We’re trying to make up for our lack of experience with talent and speed.”

And Fells will do everything in his power to make sure that happens, including mentoring Woods every step of the way.

When they aren’t making tackles, the two may be eating dinner or playing video games, likely either Call of Duty or Madden.

If that’s not the case, then they are probably talking football with Fells giving Woods tips on how to be better, and Woods doesn’t take that advice lightly, knowing it won’t just help him because it will also help the team.

“I have to make sure I do; I think that well help,” Woods said.