Social media helps Tuscola tackle draw major college interest

Social media helps Tuscola tackle draw major college interest

TUSCOLA — Predicting which college football program will next express interest in him isn't a difficult enterprise for Tuscola offensive lineman Hunter Woodard. All he has to do is look at his Twitter followers.

"Typically I'll know if they're going to (direct message) me," Woodard said, "because I'll have like five of (coaches from the same school) follow me at the same time."

For instance, a few months ago, the junior picked up a few followers who happen to be Oklahoma State football coaches.

They communicated with him via Twitter and he went on a visit a few weeks ago, when they offered him a scholarship. Boone Pickens Stadium left him in awe, and so did the team's weight room.

"It was insane," said Woodard, who visited Iowa this weekend. "That was the first really big school I've been to, so just seeing something like that was really amazing."

As of last Tuesday morning, Woodard wasn't sure about the extent of Illinois' interest after the staff got in touch with him last fall. Of the Illini staff, only offensive line coach Luke Butkus followed him on Twitter at the time.

Then, on Thursday morning, he gained several new followers: Illinois head coach Lovie Smith, offensive coordinator Garrick McGee, defensive coordinator Hardy Nickerson and five other assistants and seven other staff members.

Later in the day, they offered him a scholarship.

"They all watched his tape (Thursday) morning together," Tuscola coach Andy Romine said. "They think he's one of the best tackles the state has to offer."

Coaches aren't just using Twitter to contact Woodard. They're using it to learn about him.

Not only do they watch his 6-minute highlight video full of pancake blocks, but Romine said they specifically mention the video he posted on March 1 wherein he power-cleaned 315 pounds.

"They like the snap he has with his hips, and they seem very interested in the stuff they see on Twitter with regard to his power clean and how much he's lifting," Romine said. "Twitter is kind of the way of the world in college recruiting right now."

At 6-foot-5 and a lean 295 pounds, most schools see Woodard as a lithe, quick offensive tackle, so those that offer him play a fast-paced offense.

Syracuse offered him Wednesday, and he is in the process of setting up a visit to North Carolina. Romine said coaches tell him that Woodard's "violence of his punch," meaning the use of his hands while blocking, is as good as that of any high school offensive lineman in the country.

While the digital world has helped Woodard capture the interest of coaches across the country, his career interests lie in the outdoors.

Someday, the recreational hunter and fisherman — whose parents were both athletes at Jamaica High School — wants to become a game and fish warden, so he plans on studying wildlife management.

To get there, though, he's spending plenty of time in the weight room, on the field and on his computer and phone, tweeting away.

"You've got to do a good job of selling yourself, and he's done what coaches want to see," Romine said. "Twitter has made it easier for you to make yourself available, and hopefully that ends up paying off for him."

Preps coordinator Anthony Zilis can be reached 351-5235, or @adzilils on Twitter.


Cream of the crop
Hunter Woodard’s recruitment may intensify in the weeks and months ahead, but most of the top Class of 2018 prospects in Illinois have already settled on a school. A look at five uncommitted in-state prospects, like Woodard, and what their options are:

Tyrik Henderson    Glenbard No.
DB’s top offers: Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri and Syracuse

Noah Shannon    Oswego
DT’s top offers: Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas State and Minnesota

TJ Ivy    Chicago Marist
TE’s top offers: Illinois, Iowa State, Purdue and West Virginia

I’Shawn Stewart    Bolingbrook
WR’s top offers: Illinois, Iowa, Northern Illinois and Western Michigan

Samson Evans    Prairie Ridge
ATH’s top offers: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and Minnesota