Howard flipped to Georgia Tech on November 21 after being committed to East Carolina for some time. Georgia Tech was Howard’s only Power 5 offer, but he garnered heavy interest from the G5, including offers from all 3 service academies, which is a good sign for his fit in this offense.
Howard blew up a the SC/NC Shrine game after his senior season, and subsequently enjoyed a rankings bump from the services as a result. When Howard first committed, he was a 2-star per Rivals (5.4) and a 3-star per 247 composite (.8104). After his Shrine Bowl performance, he was bumped to a 3-star on Rivals (5.6), and had his composite grade bumped to .8258 on 247.
Howard possesses a fantastic looking frame with a thick lower body. He’s listed at 6-0 and 215 lbs, but he’s quite possibly much heavier. During his signing day press conference, Coach Johnson said that Howard was wrestling in the heavyweight class because he was above the 225 lb cutoff, and that he quickly got back under that weight after having to wrestle guys who were 280+. Howard has a huge frame, and could certainly be at that weight after packing on the pounds his senior season.
Howard doesn’t possess any elite athletic tools, but he doesn’t have large holes in his his athletic profile either. He has good burst and speed, but neither is elite. His lateral change of direction appears to be his largest weakness, but this could partially be due to his running style. More on that later.
Howard’s best athletic attribute is his balance. He shrugs off lower body hits with ease, and keeps his feet churning. If the defender goes low and doesn’t get the feet, they’ve lost. As a player who will have to navigate the trash on the majority of his runs, this will serve him well.
Howard operated primarily out of a pistol zone running scheme in high school. He showed a great acumen for finding cutback lanes and got downhill quickly. Zone runs often are designed to get to the edge, but Howard always tried to find that cutback. Opponents were usually scheming to take the edge away, but there were a couple instances where I thought there was a gap outside that could have been exploited.
Howard is also a great hands catcher out of the backfield, and will offer a great passing threat to the B-back position that Dedrick Mills lacks. He’s also already mastered the art of making a wheel route look like a block until it’s too late for the defender, something Clinton Lynch could help him develop further.
Howard displays an upright running style and likes to get north and south. He doesn’t dance to avoid defenders, choosing instead to run through them. At first glance it may seem like he has no fluidity or lateral agility, but looking closer that’s not the case. He will wiggle and reset his hips several times going through the LOS before bursting into the clear. This can be seen better during his short Shrine Bowl practice film. It also shows how thick he is in the lower body after his senior year.
His upright running style won’t serve him well at the B-back position, but he does have the ability to drop down and run behind his pads, so he’ll just need to be coached. Exhibit A:
Oh, and that was from his junior year.
What to Expect
Many expected Howard to start at A-back, but CPJ debunked that theory during his press conference on Signing Day, stating that Howard would exclusively play B-back. Given his size and the mass he’s added to his lower body, B-back certainly makes sense.
What’s unclear is how the B-back position shakes out this year behind Dedrick Mills. The rest of the depth chart has little to no game experience, so the door is open for Howard to contribute early. The big question mark is blocking. Will he pick up the schemes as fast as Mills, who was an early enrollee?
Howard is certainly physically ready to take on the rigors of B-back, and will hopefully only have to spell Mills this year. If he can do come along slowly and provide depth, it will be huge for his position group.
I simply don’t understand how a player like Howard wasn’t more heavily recruited by Power-5 programs. He has all the skills necessary to thrive in a variety of offensive sets, and will be yet another recruiting steal by Paul Johnson and the rest of the coaching staff.