How Tennessee can utilize big man Woodson’s skills

Memphis transfer Dominic Woodson is officially enrolled at Tennessee and the Vols are awaiting word on whether he’ll be eligible. There seems to be no precedent to suggest he wouldn’t be eligible, given that his scholarship wasn’t renewed by Memphis. Why would a player be punished, because he didn’t choose to have his scholarship revoked?

There could be issues with accepting transfers with disciplinary problems, but Memphis coach Josh Pastner signed off on Woodson and bade him no ill will.

So how will the Vols best utilize Woodson’s talents?

It’s called the high-low offense.

Kansas coach Bill Self gets a lot of credit for the offense because he’s run it so well for so many years. He’s even released a video, and the offense is widely imitated. The Vols will see it used against them by new Missouri coach Kim Anderson, who readily admitted during his introductory press conference that he had borrowed principals of Self’s offense. That was a gutsy statement to make, given the bad blood between the former Big 12 members. Once Missouri left for the Southeastern Conference, Self declared he wouldn’t play the Tigers anymore, ending a long and tradition-rich series.

That won’t stop Anderson from utilizing an offense that works, and he has the perfect player to help him run it, Jonathan Williams III of Memphis, who at 6-9 has always played a point-forward position.

To best explain the high-low, we consulted a coach who has used it most of his career, Middle Tennessee’s Kermit Davis. “It’s been the strength of our team for years,” Davis said.

Why? Because Davis recruits to it. He likes skilled four and five men who can handle the ball, drive it, and step out to the free-throw line extended and make jump shots.

“We’ve found that it’s excellent against hard pressure [defense],” Davis said. “Not that you play against it every night. But if you can get a big to sprint to certain spots on the floor to reverse the ball, that’s a great way to relieve pressure. When you do that, you’re putting the ball in the hands of a bigger guy to be a playmaker.

“Not everybody uses their bigs for pick and pop. In high-low, you’re sprinting your big to the high post and having him become a passer.”

Not surprisingly, because he worked with Kermit Davis at LSU and later Middle Tennessee, Tyndall has adopted the high-low into his offense. The 6-foot-11 Woodson, provided he sheds some weight (he’s been listed at anywhere from 275 to 295 pounds), would be perfect to utilize at the high post. He’s got quick feet, he’s a good passer, and he’s capable of putting the ball on the floor and driving.

So in a situation where the Vols are facing heavy defensive heat, which could happen a lot this season because they don’t have a true point guard, Woodson could be the pressure valve and serve as an oversized point guard.

“If you’ve got skilled bigs, it’s really effective,” Davis said. “When your big catches it at the top, he looks for his partner, looks for the shot, drives it or reverses it. That’s kind of the sequence. You’ve got a lot of freedom, but certain guys with certain skill levels have more fredoom. That’s where coaching comes in.”

Woodson will also be useful defensively. Some Tennessee fans have speculated about how a man so large can help in Tyndall’s high-speed full-court pressing game. The answer is easy. In all three of Tyndall’s press packages, Woodson would be at the back end, protecting the rim. He doesn’t have that far to travel, and he’s going to challenge a defender who tries to take the ball to the basket.

Tyndall also likes to have a bulky rim protector in the middle of his 2-3 zone.

Given the way Tyndall plays, it’s not surprising he would have wanted to take a chance on Woodson, who has had his share of travels and troubles over the years. Woodson understands he needs Tyndall’s brand of hard-nosed discipline. And if he adheres to it, the Vols will have the perfect five man to help run their new offensive and defensive packages.

In a statement released by Tennessee on Friday, Woodson said all the right things about his decision to transfer and his hopes for the future.

“First of all, thank you to (head coach Josh Pastner), his staff and the University of Memphis for the great opportunity they gave me,” Woodson said. “I’m very excited about my opportunity to be at Tennessee and play for coach Tyndall. I’ve learned from my mistakes and realize I have a lot of work to do to achieve my goals and dreams. My efforts moving forward will be focused on making my family and all the people who have helped me proud.”


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