Howard said Tennessee offensive coordinator Jim Chaney and Derrick Ansley, the Vols’ defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach, already have visited Webb to check on him during the spring evaluation period. “They’re just saying, only being a sophomore, I’ve got lots of room to grow,” said Howard, who’s being recruited by the Vols as a possible defensive back. “They were like, ‘You can’t coach speed, but with your technique and other skill-wise, we can help you become a great player.’ “They want me at the Star position. They’re looking out for me, because running backs take a lot of hits. And that Star position, I can cover a lot of field and come down and make plays, and they need speed on the field.”
Howard estimated that he has been to Tennessee’s campus “about 15 times” over the past three years, including his visits Feb. 2 for one of the Vols’ junior days and March 30 for their first spring scrimmage. He said they’re “wanting me to camp” with them next month, too, and he probably will at some point. “When I went down there (last month), I visited with all of the new staff,” Howard said, referring to his latest trip to Tennessee. “I got to talk with Coach Chaney — sat down with him, talked for a little bit. Also, got in with Coach Pruitt and talked to him.
“As a program, I believe, back then they were feared in the SEC. I feel like, with Coach Pruitt being in town and bringing in a lot of great coaches, I think it’ll put them back on the map as one of the top schools.” Howard liked what he saw from the Vols on the field this spring, too. “Oh, man, they’re looking a lot better,” he said. “(Quarterback Jarrett) Guarantano’s throwing lasers. It was a lot more defensive (spring) game. They’re looking stronger on the defensive side of the ball. “Coach Pruitt, he’s bringing a lot of great guys in, a lot of big-time players, and he’s just looking for some more speed on the field. And that’s why I think they’re recruiting me as hard as they are.”
Tennessee already has competition for him. He holds early offers from at least seven schools after recently adding offers from Purdue and Charlotte. His other offers are from Virginia Tech, Mississippi State, Virginia and Tulane. While he hasn’t visited many schools to this point, he said he expects to have a “real busy” summer after recently having coaches from dozens of programs visit his school. “I’ve got Ohio State coming up,” Howard said. “I’ll be at Virginia Tech’s elite camp on June 8. After that, I’m going to be at Clemson, and I’m going to Arizona right after that for a satellite camp. I think it’ll be around 20 or 30 D-I colleges there.”
He also expects to make another stop at Tennessee. “I’ll probably go to a camp this summer, just to show the coaches that I’m back, get a feel for the coaches, get to build that relationship a little more and just show them what I have,” said Howard, who’s coming off a broken fibula suffered last season. Howard, who grew up liking Alabama, said he’s still in no hurry to decide on a school. But he currently envisions making his college choice by next summer, before his senior season. “If I get the offers that I want by the end of summer, I’ll probably commit sometime (after) junior season — probably after in, like, the spring,” he said.
I don’t know his official time yet (it will be posted at some point soon) but local tailback Elijah Howard told me he hoped to run a 4.3 Sunday. Howard did display his lightening quickness during the cat-mouse drill. It’s all about strength and weight for him. He’s transferring to Baylor for his last two years of high school. He plans to camp at Tennessee, Alabama, Clemson and elsewhere this summer. Notably, most every school (except the Tigers) prefer him at nickel/STAR.
Tennessee was the first school to extend Howard a scholarship, and Jeremy Pruitt’s staff has continued to aggressively recruit the in-state prospect. While contact is minimal for under underclassman, Howard has visited the Vols three times already this spring.
“They're after me hard," he said. "They always tell me how you can’t coach speed."
“I’m definitely going to come up (to Tennessee) and get some work in with the new coaches. Just continue to build that relationship.”
On his latest trips to Tennessee, Howard has “started to talk to coach (Derrick) Ansley a lot.” The Vols believe he’s a perfect fit for their STAR/nickel position and the fact Pruitt coached Jalen Ramsey — his favorite player — means a lot, too.
“I study him,” he said.
“Having one of the guru coaches tell you they think you can be like the guys they’ve sent to the league means a lot. To be able to go work with them would be great.”