After redshirting in 2007, he saw time as a backup on the defensive line in 2008 as a redshirt freshman, recording eight tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. Howard saw more playing time in 2009 as a sophomore (four starts), finishing with 29 tackles, 3.0 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks.
He became a full-time starter in 2010 as a junior with eight starts, recording 29 tackles, 10.0 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. Howard had his most productive season in 2011 as a senior (13 starts), finishing with 65 tackles, 10.0 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, two pass breakups and two fumble recoveries (one returned for a score).
Howard was a defensive end/linebacker in high school and has done a nice job adding 60-plus pounds since enrolling in Gainesville as a 230-pounder, but not all of that is good weight despite looking in better shape in 2011.
He is a fluid and flexible athlete for the position with the natural explosion to shoot gaps and gain a step on blockers, but he doesn't always play at full intensity and has poor snap anticipation.
Howard doesn't have the ideal frame or strength to be a regular contributor in the NFL, but his athleticism and foot quickness will earn him a shot ~ a late round player who flashes, but is mostly an inconsistent performer and doesn't play up to his ability.
Strengths: Carries his weight well for his size and looks to be in much improved shape. Quick-footed with nimble agility and range to work up and down the line of scrimmage. Good get-off burst and quickness with natural explosion.
Looks fluid when moving laterally and is a flexible and natural bender. Gets to plays in a hurry with smooth pursuit and penetration skills. Has very good awareness and uses his eyes well with field sense.
Does a nice job getting his hands up at the line to knock down passes. Has a versatile skill-set with experience lining up at several different defensive line spots over his career.
Weaknesses: Possesses a narrow frame and lacks an ideal frame to add much more girth or bulk. Has underwhelming strength for the position and lacks raw power ~ too easily controlled by single blockers. Doesn't always finish and too easily gets locked up, struggling to shed. Has streaky snap anticipation and needs to develop better reaction skills.
Recorded too many facemask and offsides penalties, struggling with poor discipline ~ easily jumps off hard counts. Lacks a wide array of pass rush moves and needs to finish after he gets his hands on ballcarriers.
Was part of a defensive line rotation most of his career and was out-played by underclassmen the past few years. Battled a right ankle injury in 2010 and needs to stay conditioned.
NFL Comparison: Jarron Gilbert, Buffalo Bills."
-- Dane Brugler
Loves to work the chop initially to keep himself clean. Isn't overly sudden laterally and will get a bit overextended with his arms as a pass rusher. However, can work the club when engaged to free himself eventually. But if he doesn't win initially, will get tied up. Exhibits the ability though to win with his first step.
Possesses the get off burst to threaten gaps off the football, plays low, keeps his pad level down and exhibits the balance to make himself small through tight areas. Is a "plus" one-gap defender.
Showcases natural burst off the snap in the run game as well. Looks coordinated getting his hands up off the snap into contact and generates a good pop at the point. Can create enough separation on contact to keep himself clean, shed, and exhibit plus range off his frame when asked to close.
Possesses good burst off his frame, exhibits the balance, power and length to play the piano down the line and beat slide down blocks. However, is a bit inconsistent as an in-line defender. Can be overwhelmed on contact and will at times get off the ball late. If he doesn't gain leverage initially has a tough time anchoring on contact.
Isn't a guy who can handle any type of additional attention as well and was driven to the ground even vs. a single block inside. Needs to get stronger in the lower half and improve his overall ball awareness if he hopes to hold his own at the point at the next level.
Impression: An athletic kid who can play low, be violent with his hands and disengage in both the run and pass game. Needs to get stronger and improve overall ball awareness, but the skill set is there for this guy to play early in more of a one-gap scheme and eventually fight for a starting role down the line."
Has good size at almost 310 pounds, but still runs under 5.0 for the 40; also has the quickness top shoot the gap, can change of direction, and has good lateral agility;
Not all that strong, though, and struggles at times to anchor, especially when double teamed; also doesn’t always find the ball and tends to get hung up on blockers when his initial charge fails; had 29 tackles in 2010 including 3 sacks and 9 other tackles for loss;
Missed two games in 2010 with an ankle that ultimately required off-season arthroscopic surgery that forced him to miss spring practice this year."