Tuscola star commits to Oklahoma State

Tuscola star commits to Oklahoma State

TUSCOLA — After visiting Oklahoma State a few weeks ago, Tuscola offensive tackle Hunter Woodard said he knew it was likely the school for him.

An offer from Illinois didn’t change that. Neither did a visit to Iowa last weekend or interest from schools like Syracuse, North Carolina and others.

So on Tuesday, he decided to make it official. The junior called Oklahoma State offensive line coach Josh Henson and head coach Mike Gundy to proffer his verbal commitment.

“Ever since visiting Oklahoma State, I’ve known that was the school,” Woodard said. “I knew right after I committed, the feeling in my stomach would tell me I made the right decision, and I felt really good after I made my decision and it was a big weight off my shoulders just to sit back and be able to relax.”

Woodard made his commitment just as his recruitment was beginning to gain steam.

The Cowboys were the first Power Five team to express interest, and offers were beginning to flow in. But the Oklahoma State coaching staff told him they offered five offensive linemen in his class for four spots.

“If I could give it more time, I’d consider it probably,” Woodard said. “I couldn’t risk losing my spot.”

In Oklahoma State, Woodard joins a program that has finished the season ranked in one or both of the Coaches’ or AP Poll in seven out of the last nine seasons.

“I think it’s a program, and Hunter probably realizes this, it’s one of the most underrated programs,” Tuscola coach Andy Romine said, “and if you think of the last eight or 10 years, it’s probably one of the most prolific programs in terms of consistency.”

Illinois, meanwhile, hasn’t finished .500 or above in the last five seasons and didn’t play a spring game last season while adjusting to new coach Lovie Smith and didn’t play one this past spring because of depth issues.

“I think he liked Illinois, and I really think he liked (offensive line) coach (Luke) Butkus, but I think to be quite honest with you, and I don’t think it’s Hunter alone, there’s some deep concern for the number of people they have on the roster and the chance to be competitive,” Romine said. “I think there’s something to be said for going to a place and helping rebuild it, but I also realize you only get one crack at this team. Let’s face it, Illinois couldn’t even play a spring football game, and he’s been to four or five spring football games.”

In the end, Woodard simply felt most at home at a school 10 hours away.

“I know I’m just going to get along with them really well, and the facilities are just amazing,” Woodard said. “You can’t really beat it. (Gundy) just seems really different from the other coaches. Very country, and very fun. ... From when I’ve talked to him and everything I’ve seen on him, it seems like he has a similar background to mine, and it should hopefully be really fun being a player under him.”

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Moonpie wrote on April 18, 2017 at 2:04 pm

Goodness--too funny! After the Gazoo crowed about this dude from tiny football factory Tuscola, he goes elsewehere. Great work, Lovie Dovie Savior Man.The Illini backyard pilfered from out of state.

Countdown to Lovie Dovie buyout...

jk3363 wrote on April 18, 2017 at 4:04 pm

Good for the local kid. Go where you are happy.

With that out of the way, why would just a few days ago downplay the skills of this kid and today turn around and call it yet another nail in the coffin for the football program? 

What did Tate and the News Gazette do to make you such a toxic, angry person? 

PortlandIllini wrote on April 18, 2017 at 3:04 pm

Dude,

I hope you realize that now you have chosen to live in Stillwater, Oklahoma .

Griz7674 wrote on April 18, 2017 at 6:04 pm

As the father to Hunter Woodard, let me inform you that Lovie is one of the most Honorable men I've met. I can say the same for Luke. People need to understand that there are hundreds of reasons behind a decision like this, many of which have nothing to do with football. From specific educational requirements, to long term job opportunities, to the state of the Illinois economy and even the fan base comes into play. Literally, hundreds of reasons. What I can categorically tell you is that Hunters decision was driven by many factors but the coaching staff at Illinois was never in question. We believe in Lovie and his staff. They are going to make a difference for the football program. However, my son has to make a difference for his life and he is going to do exactly that. To question the University of Illinois football staff shows a complete lack of knowledge regarding these fine men.

jk3363 wrote on April 18, 2017 at 7:04 pm

Congrats to your son and the rest of your family! 

Pay no heed to the comment section here. Moonpie has issues that go beyond Illinois sports and frankly isn't worth the time of day. As is most of the drivel posted here below.

I'll always root for locals, wherever they wind up.  

OrlandoIllini wrote on April 18, 2017 at 7:04 pm

Mr. Woodard,

Thank you for your comments.

Illini, especially those of us who grew up in east central Illinois, wish your son every success in football and in life. I'm sorry he won't be in Illini orange, yet it that is in no way intended to criticize his decision. Sounds like you have a fine son to be proud of.

 

 

Bwp 5P wrote on April 18, 2017 at 10:04 pm

As A life Long ILLINI fan............I wish your Son nothing but the best...and offer my sincere Congratulations.....to Him and Your Family!! Wish he would have stayed home.....but I understand completely!

Good Luck!

Shoot'em up wrote on April 18, 2017 at 11:04 pm

Stillwater is a better place to live then here.

jjohnson wrote on April 19, 2017 at 10:04 am

. . . and Illinois has an inconsistently loyal fan base, as evidenced by some of the comments to these articles and the number of empty seats on any given Saturday.

Tyronius P HoggLegg wrote on April 19, 2017 at 10:04 am

Uh, Stillwater? Champaign?...Not seeing much of a difference here except the FB program is eons ahead there. Good move kid!

JamBam wrote on April 19, 2017 at 10:04 am

Good move for the young man.  Oklahoma State is a way better football program than Illinois, or any of the other schools on his list.  Hopefully he has a better experience there than Wes Lunt did.

If Whitman thought hiring Lovie Smith would make kids want to play for Illinois, then he was wrong.  Kids want to play for winning programs.  Lovie's just a name until he actually does something worthwhile here.