Two games into this year his biggest accolade came when the Owls named him their special teams player of the week following the Wisconsin game – one in which he never touched the ball on special teams.
“At times it gets tough but you have to be a team player,” said Howell, a senior. “You’ve got to be willing to do whatever to the fullest for your team to help them win.”
Howell carried the ball into the end zone 13 times last season, the most ever by an FAU player.
The emergence of true freshman running back Devin Singletary in the second half of last season made Howell the 1B to Singletary’s 1A among FAU’s backfield options during fall camp.
Through two games, it hasn’t turned out that way. The Owls gave Singletary the ball 23 times over the first couple games. Howell only carried it four times. Kerrith Whyte, largely a third-down back, has twice as many carries as Howell.
Howell served as an up-back on Saturday at Wisconsin, and his presence on the return team prompted nickel Quran Hafiz to change his number to 25 so that there wouldn’t be two No. 9s on the field at the same time.
Before inserting him onto the special teams unit, Kiffin explained to Howell how the move could prove beneficial in the future.
“He’s going to have to do that to make it at the next level too, so that’s good for him,” Kiffin said. “We talked about that.”
Howell embraced the opportunity to add to his repertoire.
“Show people you can do whatever, you can do anything,” Howell said. “I haven’t played special teams my whole time here. To go out there one week and practice and go out there in the game and put people on their butts and stuff like that, it just shows you that I’m a competitive player. I’m going to have fun doing it, too, because that’s fun for me.”
Howell is likely to have a little more fun carrying the ball this weekend, too, when FAU kicks off against Bethune-Cookman at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday.
Part of the reason Howell’s carries have been limited – he is averaging 7.8 yards per carry – is that the Owls struggled in their first two games to mount substantial drives. FAU’s offense stands to have an easier time moving the ball against the FCS-level Wildcats this weekend.
“I anticipate him getting involved more,” Kiffin said, referring to Howell. “I think it’s just been some circumstantial things of not being able to run the ball really well – pass happy in the first game and really not a lot of plays because we don’t make first downs on third down.”