The Game Changer

Lincoln High School (Ala.) coach Chad Martin refers to the Golden Bears' four-year starting running back a playmaker.

RB D.J. Howard Profile

And why not? As a senior, D.J. Howard, Clemson's top running back target for the 2010 recruiting class, averaged over 11.2 yards per carry.

"He's a game-changer," Martin said.

Howard reminds him of Carnell Williams, before the Cadillac arrived at Auburn.

As a senior, Howard rushed for close to 1,300 yards and 12 touchdowns, despite missing three games due to a hip pointer.

"At one point in the season, he was averaging about 14 yards a carry and had about 800 yards," Martin said.

In 2008, Howard finished fifth in the 4A 100-meter dash with 11.18. He finished third in the 200 with a 22.27.

"He can catch the ball and does well in space. He's got receiver hands and a running back's speed, which is a great combination to have," Martin said.

Ranked as the No. 62 2010 safety by, Howard wants to play running back, which wasn't always a sure thing at Auburn, where he's been committed since July.

Clemson's efforts to bring him in as a running back haven't gone unnoticed, hence last weekend's visit.

Howard also played safety at Lincoln.

"You can't throw the ball far enough for him to not run and go get it," Martin said. "He's a tough guy. When he reads the rush, he can spill the line of scrimmage. He's extremely quick. He brings a lot to the plate, as far as what he's capable of doing."

Regardless of what he believes Howard's capable of on the defensive-side of the ball, Martin would have him "toting that mail" on Saturdays.

"He makes stuff happen. He's one of the few kids I've seen split two safeties in the middle and they never have a chance to touch him," Martin said. "He has burst of speed. There's no other way to describe it. In the four years of coaching him in football, I've never seen anybody get an angle on him."

Off the field, he said Howard's a humble, quiet-type. When coach Dabo Swinney and defensive backs coach Charlie Harbisonwere in home earlier this week, Howard told CUTigers he was glad his mother got a little more familiar with the Clemson head coach.

Martin said that Howard is "a bit of out his comfort zone" when talking to media about himself.

"After the ball game, he's not going to have a lot of big stuff to say. He's just going to talk about his offensive linemen and how well they did," Martin said.

Over 10 Lincoln football players have signed to play college football in the past few years. Martin and the coaches are there help the players through the process, and make sure they know an education is the most important part of it all.

"The main thing is finding out about the academic things programs where they're going. The major that they want to be in and the type of people they're going to be around once they go there," he said. "We try to tell them to put football out of the equation.

"Where's the place, if football's not there, that you would go to school at? At the end of the day, that's what really matters, getting an education."

Howard, who has made official visits to Auburn and Clemson already, is contemplating one last trip to Kentucky this weekend. Top Stories