Every year, you could list the candidates for starting quarterback at Toledo and never mention Logan Woodside’s name. That might offend some players, but Woodside seems to take it in stride.
“Even going back to high school, nobody wanted me to play quarterback,” he said. “I just always told myself, ever since I was little, that I was going to play quarterback and I was going to be the best at it. Competition, I like it. It motivates me. I’ve always had to do it my whole life. I don’t know anything else.”
There are few college football fans in the Midwest that don’t know who Logan Woodside is these days. The 6-foot-2, 201-pound junior leads the nation in touchdown passes with 43 and is second nationally in pass efficiency. In another year, he might own virtually every Mid-American Conference passing record ever established. His career pass completion percentage of 65.4 ranks just behind Ben Roethlisberger (2001-03 at Miami, Ohio) in fourth place, three spots behind former Toledo slinger Bruce Gradkowski (2002-05).
And that may be the only school record Gradkowski, the previous record holder in most categories, can hold on to.
“He’s one of the better quarterbacks in the country this year,” said Appalachian State coach Scott Satterfield, who is saddled with the responsibility of coming up with a game plan to counter Woodside in the third annual Raycom Media Camellia Bowl on Saturday night at Cramton Bowl. “The amount of touchdown passes they’ve thrown this year is incredible. If you throw 43 in a career, you’ve had a great career. To do that in one season is phenomenal.”
As a freshman in 2013, the Toledo starting job at quarterback was safely in the hands of senior Terrance Owens until Owens suffered a knee injury in the third game of the season against Eastern Michigan. Enter Woodside, who had enrolled in school in January and was forced into action for the remainder of that game and three others that season.
“It was definitely an experience I learned a lot from,” Woodside said. “I came in and did the best of my ability, but being 17 years old and playing at a Division I-A level as a true freshman at quarterback is pretty tough to do.
“I was kind of thrown into the fire, so I had to learn quick and adapt to it.”
By the next year, you might think Woodside’s game action behind the departing Owens might earn him a position, but the starting role was reserved for Phillip Ely, a transfer from Alabama who had a pair of national championship rings from 2011 and 2012 and had sat out 2013 to comply with NCAA transfer rules.
Once again, in the second game of the season, an injured knee, this time by Ely against Missouri, thrust Woodside into a starting role for the remainder of the season. He completed 185 of 296 passes for 2,263 yards and 19 touchdowns with eight interceptions, but it didn’t matter. Once again, he was going to back up Ely in 2015.
“He was thrown into action unfairly as a freshman due to injury,” Toledo coach Jason Candle said. “When you recruit a quarterback, you don’t ever want them to play as freshmen and he had to. The same thing happened to him as a sophomore. He’s a guy who lost the job to Phillip Ely two years in a row. Having to tell that kid two years in a row you’re not going to be the quarterback, I think a lot of young people in today’s world would have bagged it and quit, transferred and looked for the next opportunity, chased greener grass.”
Woodside shrugs at the suggestion, as if leaving would be the last thing on the mind of a true competitor.
“Me and Phil have a great relationship,” Woodside said. “We still talk. I didn’t really ever take it (the wrong way). I just used it as motivation for me to be the best player that I could and to prove to people that I could play and be one of the best to play at the school.”
That second year as Ely’s backup (2015), Woodside was redshirted to allow him to gain an extra year of eligibility. With junior Michael Julian playing in four games as Ely’s backup in 2015, Woodside wasn’t guaranteed anything this season, either. He entered preseason camp listed as a co-starter with Julian.
“It’s just a unique situation,” Woodside said. “You can’t really dwell on it. The only thing I tried to do is take it one day at a time and get better in practice. I had a lot of support from my family and teammates. I just tried to be a team player, knowing I would get an opportunity again.”
When the opportunity came, he didn’t disappoint. The Frankfort, Ky., native has completed at least 23 passes in nine games this season and has thrown at least three touchdown passes in every game. Three times this season, he has completed more than 75 percent of his passes.
And, of course, there are those 43 touchdown passes this season, 15 less than the NCAA-record 58 thrown by Hawaii’s Colt Brennan in 2006, but 14 more than the school record Gradkowski threw in 2003 and again in 2005.
“With all the hard work I had put in and the offense I had been around for four years, I knew that I could play well,” Woodside said. “To say I would go out and throw 43 touchdowns through 12 games? No, I didn’t think that. I set a goal at 30. It’s all the credit to the offensive line and all the great receivers that we have. I just get them the ball and they do the rest.”
And while that sounds like the type of answer you’d get from a quarterback who has patiently waited for this time, Satterfield is quick to point out Woodside has plenty of weapons at his disposal.
“Number one, their offensive line is really good,” the Appalachian State coach said. “I think they have an outstanding running back. When you have a running game like that, you’re able to have the defense suck up and now you’ve got some free guys running down the field. The third thing is, they have some great skill. Their wide receivers and tight end are great pass catchers and route runners and they keep you on your toes defensively.”
Candle, however, doesn’t want people to lose sight of the fact that while other quarterbacks may have transferred for more playing time, Woodside’s decision to buckle down and win the job made him a better quarterback.
“You want your quarterback to be as close to one as you can with the coaching staff,” Candle said. “One thing you can say about Logan is he’s never disrespected what the process of preparing for a game looks like and the amount of time and preparation it takes to play the most scrutinized position in sports. If you embrace that and if you prepare like a champion, good things are going to happen.
“All the credit really goes to him. We call the plays we call and he’s got the ability to get us into good plays and out of bad ones and he certainly does a great job doing that.”
With three touchdown passes on Saturday, Woodside can tie the MAC single-season touchdown record set last year by Bowling Green’s Matt Johnson, but he isn’t thinking about personal accolades. As usual, he’s thinking about being the best teammate possible.
“I just want to go out and compete one last time with the seniors, a lot of my friends, just to try and get them a win one more time,” Woodside said. “Appalachian State is a really good defense. They take the ball over (through turnovers) a lot. We just have to limit turnovers and just have fun.”