BREAKING: Cowboys Eye Top LB first reports on a new linebacker prospect that has caught the eyes of the Dallas Cowboys as a potential first round selection.

Could former UTEP linebacker Thomas Howard be this year's DeMarcus Ware?

It may be too early to suggest the idea, but the Dallas Cowboys are doing enough due dilligence on this outside linebacker prospect to suggest that it could be possible.

In addition, Howard, who has drawn interest from many teams in the National Football League, is expected to be in Valley Ranch today and tomorrow visiting with the Cowboys, has learned.

A three-year starter for UTEP, Howard started 30 of 40 games recording 245 tackles, 11 sacks, three forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries and four interceptions.

Howard, who currently ranked as the No. 5 outside linebacker by, has also had workouts with the Carolina Panthers, the Cincinnati Bengals, the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Miami Dolphins and the Washington Redskins.

The Cowboys are clearly interested in improving their linebackers this year, especially on the side opposite DeMarcus Ware. Dallas has veteran Al Singleton coming back at the position next year, as well as last year's second round pick in Kevin Burnett, but Singleton is already 31 and Burnett is coming off season-ending ACL surgery and hardly played as a rookie.

Howard, an athletic defender with outstanding quickness, would be an intriguing selection for Dallas because the team could likely trade down several spots, gain extra picks, and still be able to get him.

Full Name: Thomas Howard School: UTEP Pos: OLB

Ht: 6-3.5 Wt: 239 40: 4.49 Year: 5Sr

Bio: Three-year starter and All-Conference selection the past two years. Totaled 85/7.5/3 as a senior after 62/8/14 the prior year.

Pos: Athletic linebacker with outstanding size/speed numbers. Breaks down well, quick to the sidelines and is effective in space. Plays with good degree of suddenness, flashing on the scene and offers terrific skills in pursuit. Quickly locates the ball and works to make plays. Easily runs downfield with backs or tight ends in coverage.

Neg: Undersized, easily blocked from the action and not a strong tackler. Inefficient and does not consistently take proper angles to the play.

Analysis: An exceptional athlete, Howard offers plenty of upside for the next level. Has starting potential once he improves his playing strength and efficiency on the field.

2004: Second team All-WAC...started all 12 games at SAM linebacker...finished third on the team with 62 tackles (48 solo)...tied for the team lead with eight sacks (59 yards), which tied for fourth-best in school history...second in the WAC and tied for 28th in the NCAA with 0.67 sacks per game...ranked second on the team with 14 tackles for losses (74 yards), which is tied for ninth in school history...rated fifth in the WAC with 1.17 TFLs per game...picked off two passes for 34 yards...also forced two fumbles, applied two quarterback hurries and broke up three passes...six stops (five solo), including a TFL, versus Colorado in the Houston Bowl...posted 12 tackles twice during the season...had 12 tackles (11 solo), including three TFLs (12 yards) and a sack (10 yards), versus Boise State...also had a forced fumble and a pass break-up against the nationally-ranked tackles (six solo) including a sack (two yards), a QB hurry and a pass break-up against SMU...had two sacks (10 yards) as part of his four tackles against Fresno State...four tackles, a forced fumble and an interception against New Mexico State...recovered a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown at San Jose State...also had two tackles and a 28-yard interception return in that game.

2003: Started 10 games at WILL linebacker, while playing in all 13 games...ranked second on the team in tackles (118) and tackles for losses (11 for 54 yards)...also had two sacks (for 27 yards) and a 56-yard interception versus Sam Houston State...had double-digit tackles in six games, including a career-high 15 against Louisiana Tech...also had three tackles for losses totaling 21 yards versus the Bulldogs...13 stops versus San Diego State, including two for losses...12 tackles against Fresno State...10 stops in three contests (versus Cal Poly, versus Tulsa, at Boise State)...had sacks versus Louisiana Tech and Tulsa...over the last seven games, averaged 9.9 tackles.

2002: Named to The Sporting News' All-WAC Freshman Team...played in 11 games and made four starts at WILL linebacker...recorded 31 tackles (23 solo), including two tackles for losses (for four yards) and a pass break-up...racked up nine tackles against Rice, along with a 54-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown...posted a season-high 10 tackles and a pass break-up against Boise State.

2001: Redshirted.

PRIOR TO UTEP: All-City and honorable mention All-District performer at Estacado High School...named the Outstanding Defensive Back at the school...registered 100 tackles and two interceptions his senior year...also lettered in track...member of the National Honor Society.

PERSONAL: Parents are Thomas, Sr. and Percilla Howard...has three brothers...father played football at Texas Tech and was chosen by Kansas City in the 1977 NFL Draft...cousin, Terry Ellis, is a member of the musical group En Vogue...full name is Thomas Arquis Howard...born 7/14/83 (Lubbock, Texas)...communication major.

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