Koetter Elated to Have Howard in the Fold

With ten days and counting before the season opener, it would be an understatement to say that all the focus of the ASU football team and its coaches is on the 2005 campaign. Nevertheless, with the visit of the team's newest transfer, Loren Howard, to the squad's practice it was hard for the ASU head coach not to be filled with excitement over the former Northwestern defensive lineman and his potential contributions to the Sun Devils next year.

"Leading up the Northwestern game last year, as we were studying their off-season tapes, I was so impressed with him on film," Koetter said of Loren Howard. "And then the fact that after the injury he had last year, I saw him playing on TV. and I couldn't believe that he came back and playing at that level. I really feel that Loren, if he's healthy, would be one of the best defensive ends in the country this year."

Loren's brother Phil played for Arizona State, and the team forged an excellent relationship with the brothers' family. In a previous Devils Digest interview, Howard admitted that ASU was a very close second to Northwestern in landing his services. "It's just one of those deals that didn't work out the first time, and for whatever reason it looks like it's gonna work out here in the end," said Koetter. "If we have that guy for one year to help us – why would we pass that up on a player that caliber, especially an Arizona kid."

With the quality of defensive linemen transferring to the program, Koetter is naturally pleased with what has transpired so far. "We struck gold on the linemen," he claimed. "It's hard to recruit defensive linemen, and to get the other two transfers in Tranell Morant and Michael Marquardt (who practiced on Sunday), and now Loren, with the guys we have in the program – I'm very excited about that." The Sun Devil skipper added that Howard's compliance papers haven't been filled out, so he cannot practice, which is a moot point as it is due to his physical condition.

Howard paid visit to practice Sunday night, which marked the first time he has done so as a Sun Devil. The lineman has been accepted to ASU, and all that is left for him to do tomorrow is pick up his class schedule. "It feels great," said Howard about being part of his hometown college. "This is my home, and I've been happy ever since I got here. I'm real happy about my decision."

The newest Sun Devil had one last order of business before flying home and that was to undergo knee surgery in Chicago last Wednesday. The procedure according to Howard, was a success. "There was no structural damage to my knee," he explained. "It was like an oil change. I'm gonna be a month in a knee immobilizer. It will three months until I can do aggressive stregnthing and running. It takes time to heal and time is what I've got right now." Howard added that his surgery was similar to the his close friend and former Saguaro teammate Kyle Caldwell went through a few months ago.

Traveling following a surgery, especially doing so in a three-hour flight, was a challenge to Howard's knee. "On planes things always swell for some reason," he commented. "When it (the knee) swelled, I iced it. I wore a compression sock, because they were afraid of a blood clot. I took aspirin, walked around a lot (on the plane), and didn't get the blood clot so that was good (smile)."

Howard is unsure about his chances of being healthy for next year's spring practice. "One thing I know about this injury is that you can't push it," he remarked. "I'm not gonna do anything until I'm released by the doctors, and they're confident that I'm better." Howard, who stand 6-4 tall said that his current weight is 275, and that he usually plays at 283. "I expect to gain weight once I start lifting with my legs again, which I haven't been able to do for the last seven-eight months," he stated. "I'm never worried about my size, strength, or speed. I'll still do upper body strength, and do some exercises in the pool. That's not an issue with me – I'm always in shape and always ready to go."

"It's exciting," said Howard about him joining ASU. It's a new beginning and a new family. I feel like I'm wanted and accepted, and this will be a good deal for me."

Sunday night did mark the first post-Camp Tontozona session, an whether it was true to script or not, the players were lethargic. "We were a little sluggish today," Koetter stated. "Which may or may not be what you expect coming down the mountain and those guys having Friday night and Saturday off. I think the combination of coming back, and school starting tomorrow, and the heat…the heat is a lot more of a factor. I talked to coach Kush about this last week, and he said it takes a week to ten days to get adjusted back to the heat."

The depth chart at running back is still not 100% solved, but Koetter explained that injuries are holding up the process as well. "Cornell is still bothered by a hamstring right now, so Cornell's workload is dictated by his injury," Koetter said. "Cornell isn't a 100% healthy which puts him outside the mix at this time. His main thing is that he has to get healthy and we'll see where he can compete."

"A couple of days off really did Randy's legs some good," Koetter continued. "Randy looked quicker and fresher tonight. If we were playing a game today, our depth chart would be Rudy-one, Keegan-two, and Randy-three. Lots is gonna change at that tailback position before it's all over. A guy that is five or sixth (on the depth chart) might end up being the starter."

On the injury front, Koetter mentioned that he had more guys in the lineup on Sunday than he thought he would originally have. Beau Manutai was one player who should have been back only on Tuesday, but was practicing on Sunday night. Stephen Berg and Preston Jones practiced as well. Josh Barrett was out of the orange shirt and did most of the drills. Zach Miller and Wes Evans are still sporting orange jerseys. Josh Golden practiced despite his illness and bruised shoulder. R.J. Oliver did some work on Sunday. Jamar Williams is scheduled to join on Tuesday.

Walk-on trials do take place tomorrow, and 60 or so players are expected. "There are a couple of positions we're a little light on the scout team, "Koetter stated.

Wednesday will be a mock game, where the team will practice from a script using various situations. No practice will be held on Saturday following Fan Photo Day. In essence, the practice schedule starting Tuesday will resemble a practice schedule during a bye week, where the team has two Tuesday practices, two Wednesday practices, and two Thursday practices leading up to the game.

Sun Devil Source Top Stories