Howard Pushing For Playing Time

This fall, Ohio State has a number of youngsters fighting to fill out the depth chart in the defensive backfield. Among them, one appears to have separated himself in the early going: sophomore Travis Howard. has more.

Ohio State will enter the 2010 season with two returning starters at cornerback in Chimdi Chekwa and Devon Torrence. After that, the depth chart remains a work in progress and figures to remain so until the season begins.

But according to cornerbacks coach Taver Johnson, one name has emerged as a top contender behind the returning starters: sophomore Travis Howard. Although injuries have held back the former three-star prospect as ranked by, the Buckeyes are hoping he has put those struggles behind him for good.

"I've seen a lot of fight (from him)," Johnson said. "That's what I like. He has been nicked up but this time last year he probably would've sat out a couple plays. He's been fighting to get himself back in there so that's been the biggest plus. He's another kid that's very smart and we have to rely on. He's done a nice job so far. We're excited."

While Torrence has battled what Chekwa described as a hamstring problem, Howard has taken him place on the first-team defense.

Howard got his first taste of game action last season as a redshirt freshman, recording two tackles in 10 games while primarily appearing on special teams. On the final depth chart distributed before the Rose Bowl, Howard was listed as the primary backup to Chekwa.

Although he has drawn high praise since he joined the program, Howard has struggled to stay on the field for long periods of time. This past spring, he missed the spring game and much of the practice sessions due to injury.

Looking at his career to this point, Howard said it has been a case of little things holding him back.

"I suffered a little foot injury here, a little shoulder injury here, just little nicks and nags that kept me away from playing football," he said. "It's just been real tough because I've been doing in, doing very well from the start of camp and from the start of the season and then I end up falling off with these little injuries that keep holding me back. I'm basically taking it day by day and focusing on not reinjuring anything else."

Now healthy, Howard said none of the injuries he has suffered are ones he has to worry about reinjuring.

As a member of the class of 2008, Howard is aware that he was widely viewed as little more than a throw-in along with prep teammate Etienne Sabino, then a five-star linebacker prospect.

That perception has helped fuel Howard.

"A lot of colleges came out to see Etienne and a lot of them didn't come out to see me," he said, "so when they came out to see him I had to show what I was capable of and I had to show them that I am a top player, just under the radar a little bit. I just want to say thanks to Etienne, because he brought all the colleges out there and if it wasn't for him I probably wouldn't have the opportunity that I have now."

As Howard has practiced behind Chekwa, the senior said he has taken note of the skills his understudy possesses.

"Travis is a guy who I think is very reliable at corner," he said. "He's a great man-to-man cover corner and I think once he gets the opportunity he's going to be real successful."

Asked where he feels Howard has made the biggest gains, Johnson said, "Just paying attention to detail and understanding exactly what he's supposed to do and where his help is and where to be. That's half of it. And just gaining experience. The more you practice, the more experienced you're going to get too."

Now the task for Howard is to turn that experience into playing time. With his primary role last season coming on special teams, the corner said he feels the coaches are confident in putting him into the game. However, all the confidence in the world might not be enough to dislodge two returning senior starters in Chekwa and Torrence.

Still, that is the goal as Howard goes through camp.

"The mentality for me right now is to be a starter," he said. "I don't want to be anyone's backup. They're two good guys and there's good competition between those guys so we're all just working to get better and improve as a unit."

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