Dave Howell was satisfied after Thursdays practice and all smiles. This is Howell's first spring wearing a white offensive jersey instead of an orange defensive one. Coaches switched Howell from defensive tackle, which he was recruited for, to offensvie tackle.
"I'm just taking it one day at a time, getting better with my technique, and trying to get better everyday," he said.
The transition from defensive lineman to offensive lineman is not an easy one. Howell noted that he has always been used to playing "on his toes" as a defensive lineman, slashing in to attack an opposing running back or quarterback, but now has to react to those positions while trying to protect the quarterbacks and running backs he used to hit.
"I have to learn how to play flat-footed and not as aggressive as I'm used to," he said, "but the biggest change is learning the offense and adjusting to what the defense gives me."
Howell also said that, defensively, he was always thinking about what gap to hit or what play they were running and he could just "go," but now he has to think about the line as a whole. Something he will learn from 21-year veteran coach Art Kehoe.
"He's energetic," Howell said with a grin. "He likes me to compete at all times, whatever it is, every play he wants you to go hard. He wants to make sure you're doing the right things so you can get better every day."
Howell said since moving to the offensive line, he would like to model his game after NFL all-pro lineman and St. Louis Ram Orlando Pace. As far as teammates are concerned, Howell has one guy who has helped him improve the most since practicing.
"Definitely Rashad Butler, without a doubt," Howell said. "He has helped me learn my stance, the proper technique, coming off the ball, and how to attack every play."
Howell cited Butler's experience (in his 5th year at Miami) and dealing with almost any situation since he was a freshman for the ‘Canes.
"He's proven everything he needs to on the field," Howell said.
As far as the offensive line is concerned, Miami's focus this spring is to be aggressive on every play while getting off the ball quickly and staying low according to Howell. Personally, he is trying to learn the offense and proper techniques to be successful at his new position.
Howell is listed at 6-foot-4, 284 pounds, but actually weighed in this spring at 296 pounds. He said his coaches are happy with him physically and want him to maintain his weight, which makes one less thing for Howell to focus on while making the transition from defense to offense.
"It definitely helps because I can focus on getting better and learning instead of physical things holding me back."
Howell said his ultimate goal is to play on the field on Saturdays, however he knows he has quite a bit of learning before that can happen. Right now, Miami has five offensive linemen that are upper-classmen and are looking to keep their depth chart full of talent after taking big hits last year.
We all know what one injury (i.e. Eric Winston) can do to an entire line. It should be interesting to see how well (no pun intended) Howell does. He certainly provides an excellent frame with tremendous upside and if football doesn't work out, Howell has a backup.
"I love playing basketball to," he added.
We won't get into the "baby Shaq" jokes just yet.
Howell Learning OT Position
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