With sweat rolling down his head, Hunter Woodard sat quietly, listening intently to offensive lineman Josh Sills rip into his fellow linemen at the half, knowing that he needed to control his nerves if they were going to win.
“That’s really when it started to click, that I just had to slow it down, trust all the practices we had, trust my teammates and that’s when I started to get the nerves under control,” Woodard said.
Offensive linemen Cole Birmingham and Hunter Anthony had both gone down with injuries earlier in the game, thrusting Woodard into action against Tulsa. Following Sills’ speech, the offense was able to return to form and secure a 16-7 victory.
Since then, coach Mike Gundy announced that both Birmingham and Anthony are expected to miss extensive time, leaving Woodard to take on a starting role on the offensive line. Alongside Tevin Jenkins and Ry Schneider, Woodard said he feels that the unit can succeed by trusting one another.
“Personally, I guess I’ve learned to trust the guys, especially having Tevin and Ry next to me,” Woodard said. “Any mistake I make, those two guys have a lot of experience and they’ve been covering me. I’ve learned to play hard and that any mistake I make I can fix it and they’re going to help me pick that up.”
The offensive line is anchored by both Jenkins and Schneider, as well as transfer Josh Sills, all three of whom are redshirt seniors. Having experienced players has helped this offensive line find its style of play.
“I think as a unit we’ve learned to kind of slow down the defense, work together and just trust each other,” Woodard said. “When the defense is moving around a whole lot, things can be confusing. We just have to trust each other to do what each individual piece does and everything comes together when we do.”
The Cowboys have been running three straight days of practice followed by two days off during this extended break.
Despite not having a game this weekend, Woodard said that the intensity is still there during practice.
“We kind of have to set the intensity ourselves,” Woodard said. “We can go out flat and not have a great practice, or we can get jacked up before practice and really crank up the intensity. We’re all excited, we’re bouncing around and we’re having lots of fun with it.”