Howard moves right up NFL charts

ATHENS – Marcus Howard feels like he proved himself before the NFL Combine.

"I think I've been perceived differently since the Sugar Bowl and the Hula Bowl," Howard said. "I think people have seen I can play this game."

Just in case, the former Georgia defensive end put on a show in front of professional scouts last month in Indianapolis at the combine. Howard ran an electronically timed 4.45 in the 40-yard dash. It was the fastest time of any of the defensive linemen at the combine.

More impressively, it was the fastest time among all the linebackers, Howard said. That time, combined with his 34.5-inch vertical jump and the fact that he bench pressed 225 pounds 27 times surely improved Howard's draft stock.

"I hope I did (make some money)," he said.

Howard, who attended the first day of spring football practice last week and watched his former teammates run through drills, only ran the 40 once at the combine because he pulled his quadriceps muscle near the end of the sprint. That injury also kept him from performing any other drills and still is bothering him.

He hopes to be completely healthy in time for Georgia's pro day on March 18. After that, he said, he may have a better idea about where he'll be picked in April's draft.

"Hopefully, I'm going to get this right and be ready for pro day," he said.

Many teams are scouting Howard as an outside linebacker in the 3-4 scheme. Howard would be comfortable in that spot, he said, and that's what he played in the Hula Bowl to showcase his ability there. He recorded one sack from his outside linebacker spot and one sack from defensive end (despite playing just three snaps there) in the game.

The Sugar Bowl MVP hasn't given up on playing his natural position at the pro level. He pointed out that Colts defensive end Robert Mathis is 6-foot-2, 245 pounds, the same height and just five pounds heavier than Howard.

"Some teams like me just as a defensive end rushing the passer," he said.

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