Healthy Howard has sights set on starting job


by - Senior Writer -
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Howard showed his tough running style with 86 yards against Auburn in 2011

Injuries have derailed the career of many promising running backs, with sometimes even the smallest kind of ache or pain spelling the difference between a 10-yard burst and a three-yard loss.

C.J. SpillerC.J. Spiller
Pro Running Back
#28 5-11, 195
Lake Butler, FL

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learned that lesson with a turf toe injury, and D.J. HowardD.J. Howard
RS So. Running Back
#22 5-11, 195
Lincoln, AL

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was faced with that all-too-painful reality last season when myriad injuries allowed Rod McDowell to move past him on the depth chart. This spring, Howard is once again behind McDowell on the depth chart, and has Zac BrooksZac Brooks
Fr. Running Back
#24 6-1, 185
Jonesboro, AR

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breathing down his neck.

With two highly-touted freshmen coming in this fall, Howard knows this spring is his chance to prove to the coaches he still has what it takes to be an important option in Chad MorrisChad Morris
Offensive Coordinator / QBs
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’ rushing attack.

"Last year I didn't perform the way I wanted to because of some circumstances," Howard said after a recent spring practice. “But that's behind me now. I know the things I have to do to improve and take my game to the next level."

Howard burst onto the scene in 2011, earning the second string spot behind starter Andre EllingtonAndre Ellington
RS Sr. Running Back
#23 5-10, 195
Moncks Corner, SC

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, and rushed for a team-high 86 yards on just nine carries in Clemson’s win over Auburn in Death Valley.

He battled those injuries last season, however, and saw his number of carries dwindle to just 34 as McDowell replaced him as Morris’ second option, and Howard told TigerNet that he has his sights set on winning the starting job.

"I'm trying to win the job, and every day is a grind," he said. "It's a dog-eat-dog world out there. There are no hard feelings on the field - we're all brothers - but when it's time to get on the field, I'm going to give it all I can."

I asked Howard if he was tweaking his running style – perhaps running a little less upright in order to lessen the impact of a hit – and he said yes.

"It's something I have to do one day at time," he said. "There are little things I have to correct. I've been working on my footsteps and the playbook - small things. I have technique things I need to work on, keeping a low center of gravity so I can make my cuts."

Howard said the biggest obstacle he has faced is his own self-confidence, which took a hit with the injuries.

"Anybody who's been hurt can tell you that once you get injured, you take a step back in your mind," Howard said. "It's not so much the physical part as it is the mental part - the mindset. I've already set a standard for myself, and I know what I'm able to do. Now I just have to apply myself each and every play."

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