The maturity that accompanies two years of college experience changed the way Buddy Howell approaches the running back position.
“Now I can pre-assess what I’m going to do before I actually do it, so [I’m] just basically smarter as a running back now,” Howell said.
Howell burst onto the FAU football scene midway through the 2014 season by gaining 210 yards in his first two collegiate games before a hamstring injury in the following game ended his year. Howell admits that during that first season he wasn’t always completely sure what he was doing on the field, taking what amounted to a get-ball-run-fast approach and hoping everything else worked out.
Armed with a better grasp of the system, he led the Owls in rushing last season with 598 yards, though his carries diminished as the year progressed with the emergence to true freshman Trey Rodriguez.
In the spring Howell emerged from what is expected to be a crowded backfield becoming the guy coach Charlie Partridge deems the clear leader at the position.
“Physically, he looks great right now,” Partridge said. “I’m excited to see him with the ball in his hands this fall.”
Senior Jay Warren also returns for 2016. He gained 449 yards last year despite being injured for much of the season.
Partridge kept Warren away from contact much of the spring, which gave Howell more opportunities to learn new offensive coordinator Travis Trickett’s offense.
“It helped,” Howell said. “It’s very simple. It’s not to complicated. I’m good at learning offenses and learning plays so it wasn’t such a big deal learning the offense, but all the reps did help with the little things, fundamentals and the alignments, and where I have to be.”
Marcus Clark also returns to the Owls’ backfield. He came on late last season, showing that he could be a third down threat running or catching the ball.
And redshirt freshman Kerrith Whyte impressed during the spring game, rushing for two scores and catching another.
“These guys all bring different things to the table,” Partridge said. “They’re not all the same type of back, which is fun because you could end up with multiple running backs on the field.”
FAUOwlAccess.com Projected Fall Depth Chart
Buddy Howell (6-1, 215, Jr.)
Emerged as a true lead running back in the spring and is becoming a leadership presence in a talented unit. “He’s has always been a great person but his leadership skills have come a long way,” Partridge said.
Jay Warren (6-0, 210, Sr.)
His 1,360 career rushing yards are the fifth most in FAU history. Fumble issues plagued him as a sophomore and injuries slowed his junior season. Proving he can be durable is the key for Warren this season. When healthy, can be a true No. 1 running back, as the 132 yards he gained in the first half against Miami last season shows.
Marcus Clark (5-8, 190 R-Jr.)
Came to FAU as a defensive back but proved last season he was well suited for the move to running back, averaging 5.0 yards per carry and 13.4 yards per catch last season. “He’s displayed good speed out on the edge so you can get him the ball and let him do things in space,” Partridge said. “Our offense lends itself to that based on what the defense shows us.”
Kerrith Whyte (5-10, 200, R-Fr.)
Knows what to do when the ball is in his hands. How much playing time Whyte receives may depend on how quickly he masters the playbook and understands his assignments. Spring game breakout didn’t surprise Howell. “That guy has a bright future,” Howell said. “I’ve been saying that ever since he was on scout team. He has amazing speed, nice strength and he’s a big guy. I just can’t wait to see him burst onto the scene.”