By William Qualkinbush.
By William Qualkinbush
There is plenty of room on the football field for D.J. Howard, at least in theory. He has been a backup for the last two seasons, and he is poised to bust out of that label in 2013—a pivotal year in his mind.
But Howard currently sees his name at the second slot on the depth chart. It has become his mission to break through the chains that have kept him shackled to his current role by showcasing his unique abilities. However, he also points out that if his primary goal is to simply rise up the pecking order, he’s missing the point.
“The depth chart, I’m really not that concerned about it right now,” Howard said. “I can’t really control that. I can only control what I can control. That’s my focus right now. We have a lot of guys that can contribute.”
Howard has seen his career derailed by a series of injuries that have limited his ability to be on the field performing for the Tigers. The Alabama native has shown flashes but has never become a consistent part of the rotation at running back for Chad Morris.
But Howard says he feels healthy and ready to be a part of the plan to replace Andre Ellington at tailback. He notes improved blocking and an emphasis on ball security have given him an enhanced sense of confidence heading into a new season.
Howard says his strength has always been his ability to barrel straight ahead and pick up yardage between the tackles. On a team that loves to stretch the field horizontally on principle, he feels he can be as asset in the game plan.
“I’m definitely more of a north-and-south guy,” Howard said. “I like to be physical. I feel like that’s something I can bring the team.”
Transforming his body has been a focal point of Howard’s offseason. He is up to around 200 pounds in an attempt to match his body type more aptly with his running style.
“I’ve always been a smaller guy who runs like a big back,” Howard said. “That’s just my mentality. That’s the way I run. Now I’m trying to get a little bit bigger so I can be a little bit more effective in doing that.”
There is plenty of room in the Clemson backfield for Howard to produce. Now it becomes a matter of him seizing the moment, overcoming the injuries and setbacks, and stepping into the spot open for him to take.