Penn State coach Bill O'Brien has called center Ty Howle a nasty player when he hits the field. Howle's teammates have echoed that sentiment. But the fifth-year senior is more comfortable describing his style of play simply as physical.
Either way, Howle doesn't take all of the credit for his hard-hitting approach. He says it's what offensive line coach Mac McWhorter preaches week in and week out to all of the offensive linemen.
As an offensive line, we have a lot of different personalities, said Howle. The one thing Coach Mac tells us every day when we go through notes is that one of the most important things as a line is playing physical. We need to play with both a physical and positive mindset. Our whole offensive line tries to be physical. Personally, I take that to heart. I try to play physical every Saturday.
A southern boy from Wake Forest, N.C., Howle is anything but nasty off the field. The three-time Academic All-Big Ten pick has a great sense of humor. Yet he is humble in his own way, too, quickly passing compliments onto his teammates and especially his position coach.
We love playing for Coach Mac, Howle said. We know how much he cares for us and obviously we want to play hard and physical for him. We want to make him proud.
Even after listening to the endless questions about PSU freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg, Howle answered with the utmost respect for the young signal caller.
It's impressive to see how well he's picked up the offense, said Howle. I can't imagine how tough it would be, between classes and getting to know all the teammates, plus learning a complicated pro-style offense.
It's also impressive to see Hackenberg completing 71.7 percent of his passes. But Hackenberg is the first to credit the men up front for any success he is enjoying this season.
I feel like the offensive line is a big asset, Hackenberg said. They're all seasoned guys.
Penn State is actually rotating up to eight offensive linemen with the first team this season. Howle, however, has been a fixture at center, and says he is comfortable with whatever personnel group is on the field at a given time.
As soon as the play's over, me as a center, I'm focusing on where the ball is and what situation we're in, said Howle. We're going to play the same with whatever five is in the game based on what Coach O'Brien and Coach Mac want.
Though Penn State dropped a 34-31 decision to UCF last weekend, O'Brien credited the line for playing its best game of the season. The offense generated 455 yards and averaged 7.1 yards per play.
I feel like the line played well on Saturday, said Howle. Obviously the goal is to get better in every game we play. I do think the gelling is starting to happen for us, and we're starting to hit our stride as a group. We still have to continue to get better and play better, though. We've got a big game this weekend against Kent State. We have no choice but to continue to get better.
However people describe Howle when he hits the Beaver Stadium field this week -- nasty or physical -- he'll be feeling something else inside.
I still get chills every time I walk into that stadium, Howle said. It's a great place to play and I couldn't imagine playing anywhere else.