Analysis: Howard is a big get for Indiana

In Jordan Howard, Indiana picked up a proven commodity that should be able to step in and pick up right where Tevin Coleman left off for the next two seasons. Howard ranked seventh in the nation in rushing last year with 1,587 yards and 13 touchdowns at UAB.

When Tevin Coleman made it official a few days ago that he would enter the NFL Draft and forego his final season at Indiana, the obvious question was who would step in and become IU’s featured tailback in the offense.

At one point the heir apparent appeared to be Titus Booker, the high school senior at Grayslake (Ill.) North. As a senior last season, Booker ran for 1,931 yards and scored 26 touchdowns. But after committing to IU in July, he flipped his commit to Wisconsin on Nov. 17.

But Booker is now the furthest thing from the minds of Indiana football fans. The reality is that IU now has a proven commodity at running back following the announcement Thursday that Jordan Howard will transfer from UAB and be able to play immediately for IU in the fall.

While Coleman was the second leading rusher in the nation last season with 2,036 yards, Howard ranked seventh nationally with 1,587 yards and 13 touchdowns. He had eight 100-yard games and five games over 150 yards.

But when the season ended at UAB, the university president there announced that the Blazers were disbanding their football program. That meant that players would be eligible to transfer wherever they wanted and be eligible to play immediately.

In Howard’s case he plans to enroll at Indiana for the Spring semester and participate in Spring football for the Hoosiers. He will have two years of eligibility remaining at Indiana.

Howard, a 6-1, 228-pound tailback, had offers from dozens of schools to continue his career at their institutions. He actually made visits to Indiana, Vanderbilt, Notre Dame and South Alabama before narrowing his choices to IU and Vandy last week.

Tuesday, he met with IU coach Kevin Wilson and gave him his commitment. It was announced officially by the school Thursday that Howard has signed a financial aid agreement with the Hoosiers.

Howard joins another UAB transfer, wide receiver Marqui Hawkins, at Indiana. Hawkins sat out last season at UAB after transferring from the University of Florida. Both should be instant offensive weapons for the Hoosiers.

So how big is the Howard transfer?

It’s huge. It allows the Hoosiers to not miss a beat for next season despite losing a running back the caliber of Coleman.

When you look at it, that is the biggest gain here. With an incoming freshman, you can be hopeful that his skills will translate to the next level but you never know for sure. And sometimes it takes a freshman a while before he can deliver at the next level.

With Howard you have a proven tailback. He gained 1,587 yards against Division I competition last season and 881 yards as a freshman two years ago. He is battle tested and ready to go.

Beyond that, he will be joined in the backfield by a healthy Nate Sudfeld who will return for his senior season in the fall after suffered a shoulder injury in week five that cost him his junior season.

Coleman’s yardage last year was even more amazing when you considered that IU didn’t really have a passing game threat for most of the year with him in the backfield. But with Sudfeld there, opposing defenses will not be able to focus primarily on Howard which should allow him opportunities to have big games.

And since the offense was set up this year to run the football it will be an easy transition going from Coleman to Howard.

Christmas didn’t come early this year for Wilson and his staff, but there’s no doubt it came a week late.

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