CUTigers.com continues our countdown to kickoff series by taking a look at defensive end J.J. Howard. The Hanahan native is listed as the starting right end headed into fall practice, but can one of the most athletic players on the team hold off Mo Fountain and Gaines Adams for playing time in 2003?
DE J.J. Howard
6-3, 236, 4.48
Hanahan High School
Howard saw action at linebacker and at tight end during his freshman year at Clemson, but he's settled in on the defensive line for the Tigers entering his senior year. Howard registered 34 tackles and two sacks last season in 13 games. J.J. played in the South Carolina North/South All-Star game during his senior year at Hanahan High School. He was named an all-state selection as a senior as well as all-region as a junior and senior.
As one of the fastest defensive linemen on the team, J.J. Howard has the ability to blow past anyone he matches up against in 2003. If speed and athleticism are his greatest assets, size is perhaps his greatest weakness.
Howard is listed as the starting defensive end on the right side of the line entering fall practice, but he'll be pushed junior Mo Fountain for playing time.
With legitimate 4.5 speed, Howard has the potential to get around slower offensive linemen, however, he also can be pushed around by some of the bigger tackles in the ACC. The Tigers have several talented defensive linemen waiting in the wings in Brandon Cannon and Gaines Adams. Should Howard or Khaleed Vaughn falter, some young guns could be in the position for more playing time.
With the losses of Bryant McNeal and Nick Eason, the defensive line is somewhat of a concern headed into the 2003 regular season. Unfortunately, the line will be heavily depended on to pressure the quarterback considering the vast losses in the Clemson secondary. At least one, if not two veterans from the Khaleed Vaughn, Mo Fountain, J.J. Howard trio, are going to have to step up and make some plays this year.
Howard is one of the most athletic players on the team with a 4.48 40-yard dash and 44-inch vertical leap. If that athleticism can somehow translate into making big plays in 2003, he could be in store for a breakout year. If not, he may be unable to hold on to his starting end position by the midpoint of the year.