Alabama 5-Star tight end commit O.J. Howard has the potential to become a college football superstar.
Rivals.com has Howard checking in at an impressive 6'6'', 220 pounds while running a 4.49 40-yard dash, which is incredible.
He's a big-time player that can literally line up at any skill position on the offensive side of the ball, even quarterback, and head coach Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide are going to have a field day thinking of all the ways they can utilize him. Right now though, in 'Bama's offense he's projected to be a tight end.
Here's my scouting report on Howard plus a few predictions for his career with the Crimson Tide:
Howard is easily one of the most impressive athletes I've seen in this class. You can find highlights of him playing receiver, slot, flanker, quarterback and defensive end.
His size is obviously a plus, but it's his athleticism that really allows him to stand out. There's a ton of big players out there, but not many of them possess the quickness and agility Howard does in open space.
Once he gets the football in his hands he can make people miss like a speedy and much quicker wide receiver would, so you can imagine what an advantage that is.
The one thing I noticed about Howard that I think will make him great though is his ability to box-out as a receiver. Antonio Gates made a career out of it in the NFL and there are current NFL tight ends still trying to perfect the art. Howard has that kind of potential.
Notice in the picture below how Howard sets himself up to catch the ball against the smaller defensive back. He gets his whole body in front of him, has a wide base with his feet and uses his arms to create a barrier between his catching lane and the defender.
His size and athleticism allow him to go up and high-point the ball over the defender, and notice that he still has his body between the defender and the ball the whole time.
This is what makes a great tight end in today's brand of football.
While Alabama is known for it's power running game, often times using three tight end sets—two on the line and one as an H-back for blocking purposes—but Saban and the Tide would be smart to utilize Howard's ability as a receiver as well.
How should Alabama utilize Howard?
The good thing is, he's big enough to be a blocker and he's comfortable playing in the backfield, so they can line him up there. He could be dangerous on play-action passes leaking out into the flats out of the backfield or running a seam route as a traditional tight end, and I expect many big plays out of him in the passing game.
With Alabama's running game traditionally being so strong, this will force defenses to honor the run and move up, thus allowing Howard an opportunity to use his size and athleticism to get behind the linebackers and make things happen.
This is a kid I predict will be an All-American. He'll be one of the bigger scoring threats in college football and I wouldn't be surprised to see him making those same big plays in the NFL once the time comes.
Alabama fans should be very excited about Howard.