Jordan Howard barreled through the line for 9 yards and a first down. The next play he picked up 8 more and then 10 on the third.
Nate Sudfeld was back at quarterback working with the first team on Tuesday at Spring Football but his arm was being rested. That’s because Howard was a workhorse back in the backfield.
Howard, a 6-1, 225-pound tailback from Gardendale, Ala., and a transfer from Alabama-Birmingham, is the heir apparent to take over the role vacated when Tevin Coleman opted to declare for the NFL Draft following his junior season last year.
Coleman ran for a single-season school record 2,036 yards and 15 touchdowns last season. He ran for 307 yards against Rutgers, 247 against Indiana State, 228 against Ohio State and 218 against Iowa. All of those totals were last season.
Howard had a pretty good year at UAB, too. He ran for 1,587 yards and 13 touchdowns as a sophomore last season. He ranked seventh nationally with 132.3 yards per game. He had eight 100-yard games with a high of 262 yards against Southern Mississippi.
But when UAB eliminated its football program, Howard was eligible to transfer and play immediately wherever he landed. That ended up being Indiana, and the tailback is catching a lot of eyes in spring practice.
He currently wears No. 8, which is the same number that Tegray Scales wears on the defensive side of the ball. It’s unclear if both will wear No. 8 when the season begins.
Indiana running backs coach Deland McCullough said that Howard is quickly making the adjustments necessary so that he’ll be productive in the fall.
“I think the tempo is something he has to adjust to,’’ McCullough said. “We go fast. Running the ball is running the ball. But getting used to my coaching style and just the demands and high standards that we have. He has high standards for himself but I’m trying to pull everything I can up out of this guy.
“He’s going to be a great player along with the rest of the guys.’’
McCullough admitted that he has been pleasantly surprised with just how good Howard has been so far in the spring.
“He’s got some juice,’’ McCullough said. “Just getting him some of the finer points of how we do things here. You put him in these live situations and you can tell he played now. He has good body control, good body lean, he knows how to pass protect. He’s clearly a guy who played at a high level before. We just need to continue to work with his conditioning and get him to play at the high tempo that we play.’’
McCullough said the one thing that has stood out about his game is that maybe he’s faster than the coach was led to believe.
“He is faster than what I thought,’’ McCullough said. “When I timed him a couple of weeks back, I was like ‘Whoa!’. But I wasn’t surprised because of some of our conditioning. Guys were getting up out of there. He’s better at that than I thought and he’s a better pass protector that I thought.’’
McCullough was asked how Howard’s game compares to that of Coleman. He was very frank.
“Nobody’s game compares to Tevin,’’ McCullough said. “If Tevin sees a crease it’s over. The guy is at the second level and he’s gone. It’s a different style. Jordan is a more of a guy who will keep the chains moving but if he hits a seam he can surprise you. Now his acceleration into that top end speed isn’t like Tevin. But if he enters the crease he’ll run away from you.
“We’ve got a group of guys that between our top two or three players we feel like we’re going to be able to put up similar numbers that we did last year.’’