Howard Football Starts on the Road to Redemption
The Howard University football began its two-a-day practices on Wednesday and according to Coach Gary Harrell, there were mixed reviews. “The offense got the upper hand early in the practice,” noted Harrell, who is in his first season as a head coach.
“Then the defense began to assert itself and from there, they dominated. Part of the offense’s slide could be attributed to the loss of starting center Terrell Hawkins, who injured his leg. Harrell says that it is only a minor injury and he should be back soon.
Another factor could be the installation of a new offense under Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach Ted White. White is a former All American at Howard who owns most of the school passing and offensive records.
When talking specifically about the offense, Harrell was quick to point out that he is very pleased with the rapid progress of freshman quarterback Greg McGhee, who is projected as the starter.
“Greg McGhee is really picking up the scheme much quicker than we anticipated,” said Harrell, of the talented 6-3, 200-pound freshman from Pittsburgh, PA. “He is improving with each snap. Evan Pittman is also coming along very nicely.” Pittman is a 6-3, 195-pound freshman from Baltimore, MD.
The running back position may be the most competitive unit on the team. Red-shirt junior Jarren Brown, who showed well in the spring, is slated to start, but he is getting get stiff competition from red-shirt junior Charles Brice, senior Terrance Leffall, sophomore Andra Williams and freshmen Aquanius Freeman. Brice led the team in rushing last season with 462 yards and 6 TDs in 8 games. Leffall rushed for 84 yards last season in two games before being injured and missing the rest of the season. Williams missed all of last season due to personal reasons, but he was the team-leading rusher with 419 yards as a freshman in 2009. And Freeman created a lot of buzz during practice with his speed and explosiveness.
All-MEAC wide receiver Willie Carter looks in mid-season form but there is concern by Coach Harrell of the unit as a whole.
“I have not been pleased with the wide receivers,” says Harrell, the school’s all-time leading receiver with 184 receptions during his career. “We have a lot of young players there and there have been too many dropped balls. I know that they are young, but they are going to grow up fast if we are to improve in that area.”
Traditionally, the defense is ahead of the offense this early in the process, but Harrell feels that they may even be a bit ahead of schedule. The task of revamping a defense that allowed over 30 points per game last season has been handed to defensive coordinator Rayford Petty, a former head coach at Howard who is generally regarded as one of the best at the FCS level.
“The defense is jelling well under Coach Petty’s system,” says Harrell. “They look very solid in all areas and appear to be very comfortable in what they want to do.”
The defensive secondary, which was very young last season, has looked especially sharp early on under the coaching of secondary coaches Ron Bolton and Billy Jenkins and volunteer coach Vontae Long. Sophomore safeties Cam Long and Julian David came up with spectacular plays on several occasions and both appear prime for fine seasons.
“Coach Bolton, Billy Jenkins and Vontae Long are doing a good job of coaching those young guys up,” said Harrell.
Bolton, a former NFL performer, who is in his second tenure at Howard, is credited with the development of two former Bison standouts and current pros, Antoine “Deuce” Bethea of the Indianapolis Colts and Ronald Bartell, Jr., who is the starting cornerback for the St. Louis Rams. Jenkins is a former NFL performer, who was an All MEAC selection with the Bison. Long is also former Howard All MEAC selection, who was the conference Rookie of the Year as a freshman
Harrell added that he has been pleasantly surprised at the improvement of the kicking game, an area that has long been an Achilles Heel at Howard.
The Bison will continue two-a-day practices through August 20, just in time for classes which start on August 22.
The season opener is September 3 against Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, MI at 7 pm.