Howard Enjoys AU Visit, Cautious of UA Offer

Autuaga Academy tight end O.J. Howard (6-5, 235) is one of the top prospects in the state of Alabama for 2013. He left Auburn with questions about his scholarship offer to Alabama and said he had a great time with the Auburn coaches.

Autaugaville, Ala. – Alabama commitment O.J. Howard made a visit to Auburn for junior day on Saturday and one of the main topics of discussion between Howard, his family, and the Auburn coaching staff was scholarships.

"It was probably one of the best days I've ever had, for real," Howard said of his visit to Auburn. "I really got to talk to Coach (Gene) Chizik for the first time in depth and stuff like that. My mom, my parents, asked a lot of questions and stuff like that. It was a great day for me.

"We were just talking about scholarships and things like that – the one-year offers and the four-year offers. Mainly just focusing, ‘If you were going to leave high school early, how would it be for me?' We were just talking about things like that."

Chizik signed all of his incoming players to four-year scholarship offers this February, meaning they couldn't be released from the team without good reason. Nick Saban signed his players at Alabama to one-year scholarships, which are renewable each year.

"(Chizik) was just saying it's based on a situational thing," Howard explained. "He gave all four-year offers this year. So you never know what it could be.

"The four-year is guaranteed," Howard said of impressions. "The one-year is year by year, so I guess they could cut you if you don't do so good your first year, or they could take away your scholarship. But with the four-year it guarantees you all the way through. That's my understanding of it. I'd rather get a four-year."

Asked if he was offered a four-year or one-year scholarship at Alabama, Howard said, "They haven't really told me, but I really haven't asked. That's something that really comes to mind every time I go to Tuscaloosa. Next time I go I'm going to find out. I keep forgetting to ask, but I'm going to ask."

Howard has taken several visits to Auburn and plans on taking several visits to other campuses despite his commitment to Alabama on July 18, 2011.

"I'm still committed to Alabama right now, but you've got to keep your options open right now because you never know what might happen one day," he explained. "Auburn is still an option for me. Everyone is. We're going to see what happens.

"This has probably been my third time, or, I don't know, I've been to Auburn a lot," Howard added. "Like I said, you've got to keep your options open because you never know what might happen. You can't tune somebody out because what if something bad happens over my commitment to Alabama and I have no one else to go to? You'd be messed up. You've got to treat everybody else the same way you want to be treated. That's how I look at it as."

After pointing out that something bad may happen with commitment to Alabama, Howard was asked if he was aware of what happened recently with running back Justin Taylor from North Atlanta High School and Darius Philon from Vigor High School. Both were long-time commitments to Alabama, but when Alabama received commitments from higher-touted prospects close to signing day – much to Taylor's and Philon's surprise – they were asked to grayshirt.

"I actually got to talk to Coach (Nick Saban) about it in Tuscaloosa," Howard said. "I don't know what really happened with it, but I wondered if it could happen to me. You never know. It probably could, it probably couldn't. I still take stuff like that into great consideration.

"They never really said," Howard continued. "They didn't come out with it for real. They never said. It's personal I guess.

"They didn't really avoid it," he added. "They told me what happened, but I really don't want to repeat it because I don't know if they want me to or not."

Howard is listed as an Alabama commitment, but he said that he will ultimately make his decision after his senior season at Autauga Academy.

"My final decision will probably come next year after football season," he explained. "That's when it's going to be. Over the summer I'm still going to keep my options open right now, and then at the end of the year I'm going to make my real, final decision."

Right now he is still hearing from Auburn and several other schools. Howard's offer list is Alabama, Auburn and Ole Miss.

"One of my main visits is that I want to visit Florida State," Howard noted. "They're really on me pretty hard. They're one of the main schools I want to visit. Florida State is one of my main options.

"Ole Miss is on me pretty hard," Howard added. "Mississippi State came at me pretty hard the other day. They came in the picture the other day – Thursday afternoon. The coach messaged me on facebook. I'm just getting used to him too, so we're going to see how Mississippi State goes also."

As far as Auburn's junior day on Saturday, Howard said that the best part was sitting down at the drawing board with new offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler.

"He's a great guy. He's funny. I love him," Howard said of the new OC. "He's a down to earth guy. He knows a lot about offense. All he talks about is football, so I can tell he really likes it. He says he really likes to use the tight end a lot, so I'm just going to check that out this upcoming year and see if he really does or not. But I'm pretty sure he does.

"They use the West Coast a lot," Howard added of the new system at Auburn. "They move the tight ends around and create mismatches. They create mismatches with the tight ends on the linebackers or smaller safeties and stuff like that. That's the West Coast style offense like the Saints run. That's the type of offense they're running.

"The best part was probably sitting down with Coach Loeffler for the first time, talking with him and going over plays and stuff like that," he continued. "That was the funnest part. He just comes up with creative plays, puts your name in it, and shows you how it would be if you were here. That was the funnest part for me.

"The way he's got it showing on the board it's like it's going to be amazing. They've got the tight ends moving around everywhere. You could be from an H-back to a slot to an outside receiver to a man in motion. It looks fun.

"I also went to the basketball game," Howard added. "The basketball game was pretty good. It was my first game in the new gym. I like the new gym. Other than that I ate. So that's about it."

Howard had been persistent on playing receiver in college for a while, but now realizes at 6-5, 235-pounds that tight end is his home. He's also a standout baseball player at Autauga Acadamy.

"I think tight end is the best shot for me," Howard said. "Even if I get my 40 down I could probably play receiver, but I think tight end is the best shot for me overall after college if it comes that far."

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