After a knee injury prior to the season caused him to miss the entirety of the 2006 year, the spring season last year saw Howard taking reps with the offensive third team. He ended up seeing action in all of the Bearcat’s contests last year, splitting time with Marshwan Gilyard. His 13 game appearances resulted in just seven catches, 94 yards, and one touchdown. Understandably, Howard is excited about running with the first team thus far this spring, and hopes that’s where he’ll stay come fall.
“Yes, sir,” said Howard when asked if he likes the idea of possibly becoming a serious play maker in head coach Brian Kelly’s spread offense. “I’m trying to be a number one right now and all the way through the rest of the season.”
Howard can be found guilty of imagining big things for himself on the football field once the regular season rolls around, and with good reason.
“It’s a big adjustment; just going from last spring where I was with the 3’s, this spring I’m running with the 1’s,” said Howard. I plan on making that big step. Like you said, seven catches last year. I plan on tripling that, going way beyond that. I’ve got to step up this year.”
Spring ball has given Howard a chance to make those big steps. Wednesday turned into another impressive showing for the 6’-3”
Howard looked consistent throughout the day, and then exploded with another game-changing performance in full offense vs. defense play, making a grab off a Demetrius Jones thrown and taking the catch 60 yards down the field for the score.
Howard doesn’t cause the defense and secondary any troubles with his speed, but he doesn’t need to, despite knowing it’s something he’ll need to work on.
“I had knee surgery two years ago, and last year it just bothered me all year, and I’ve been rehabbing it a lot,” said Howard of his speed troubles, if you can call them that.
But what he lacks in speed, he makes up for in a sheer lack of mental mistakes.
“Intelligence,” said Howard picking out the best aspect of his game. “I think I comprehend the offense pretty quick. I don’t have too many mistakes, mental errors as the coaches call them.”
Howard isn’t the only one who thinks so. Wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator Charley Molnar agrees with Howard on all fronts.
“He (Howard) plays with great effort, great passion. He’s very intelligent,” said Molnar. “He’s got long arms, goes, fights for the ball. Very rarely makes a mistake, and he’s improved his blocking also.”
“Maybe I wish he was a step faster, maybe he’d run by more guys,” added the coach, again agreeing with Howard on where he’d like the receiver to improve.
Molnar is overall very happy with the strides Howard has taken this spring, but admitted the receiver did not always work as hard as he has through spring ball this year.