By the time the second half began, Westlake (Calif.) held a 28-0 lead and Compton (Calif.) Dominguez finally realized it needed to double cover the Warriors’ star wideout Theo Howard.
Howard, a four-star wide receiver prospect, didn’t touch the ball a single time in the second half of Westlake's 35-7 win Friday night, but the damage was already done. He caught seven first half passes for 133 yards, including a wide receiver screen pass that saw him start on the left, cut back into the middle of the field before taking it 61-yards to the house for a touchdown. He also had a couple of long catches over the top of the defense.
“They really didn’t have any safety help and he was kind of playing a cover-2,” Howard said after the game. “We took advantage of that and went deep.”
Those numbers would have been even better, but a penalty negated a 55-yard touchdown catch. It was the latest big performance from the nation’s No. 8 wide receiver, who has 32 catches for 522 yards and five scores for the 4-1 Warriors.
Howard has been one of the most consistent performers in the Southland so far this season. Though he is ranked as the No. 2 receiver in the West behind La Puente (Calif.) Bishop Amat’s Tyler Vaughns, Howard said Friday night that he has become the region’s top wideout.
“I definitely feel like it.”
There is a chance the two could battle it out on the practice field in the future. Vaughns committed to USC last month and Howard is still being pursued by the Trojans. USC is trying to bring in a large receiver class with Vaughns and four other current commits slated to play the position. While most recruits prefer less players to battle against at their position, Howard isn’t shying away from the Trojans. He said the competition gets you better.
“I like everything [about USC],” Howard said. “They do a very good job of using the offensive matchups with different players and positions.
“And just the coaching staff, they’re a great coaching staff. They know what plays they’re calling and I just feel comfortable there.”
After de-committing from Oregon in August, Howard said earlier in the month that he had made his decision and was down to USC and UCLA, but on Friday Howard backtracked a bit.
“I wouldn’t say that I’m down to two. I would say that I have two favorites, but right now I’m open and I’m taking visits before I make any decisions.”
Howard will take an official visit to UCLA this weekend when the Bruins host Arizona State. Though part of the reason he de-committed was to be closer to home, Howard said he also plans to visit Notre Dame (date yet to be determined) and will be in the building on Oct. 17 when Texas A&M welcomes Alabama to Kyle Field.
“Just to make sure I’m not making the wrong decision and just make sure I can explore every option,” Howard said of the out-of-state visits.
Howard has been to both USC and UCLA on numerous occasions for unofficial visits, but said he was taking an official to UCLA because “it’s different just going to the game. [With an] official, you obviously get to be with the team and go out on the weekend and see what it’s actually like.”
Does that make UCLA the favorite over USC? According to Howard, he’s taking an official to check out the Bruins and not the Trojans because he’s “been to USC a lot more than UCLA” and he wants to make sure he sees what it is like in Westwood.
But he also spoke highly of UCLA freshman quarterback Josh Rosen:
"It just helps make you more comfortable just knowing that you have a quarterback that can get the ball there. When I come in, he can show me how to do stuff and how things are run, so it’s great."
As of now, Howard is only planning to take three visits and doesn’t plan to make a commitment until after he has taken all those visits. He is also planning to enroll early wherever he commits, but while a number of other early enrollees signed their financial aid paperwork last week, Howard said he’ll wait until he makes his commitment to take care of that.
Until then, both Los Angeles schools as well as the outsiders trying to lure him away from Southern California would be wise to learn from from Compton Dominguez’s first half mistake and double cover Howard all the time or else he’s going to get loose and be gone, scoring six points for the opposition.