We had all heard the murmurs in 2016 that Eli Howard was debatably our best defensive lineman, but due to archaic transfer rules, we weren’t able to see for ourselves until this season what he was all about. Suffice it to say, Howard more than lived up to the hype.
7. Eli Howard, DT (Preseason Rank: NR)
Eli Howard led the team in sacks (5.5) and Tackles For Loss (8.5.). Officially, he had three passes broken up, but I swear he swatted four passes at the line of scrimmage against Kansas alone. It’s a bit of a crime he received no post-season love, but the gift that will keep on giving for Red Raider fans is that the NCAA granted him an additional year of eligibility about a month ago. That’s right, we just witnessed Howard’s freshman season.
The San Angelo Central product made his way to Lubbock via North Texas. Then Defensive Line coach Kevin Patrick must have seen something he liked, and clearly pitched the staff to consider Howard. At the time, I’ll admit I was skeptical of the transfer and that Howard would be little more than a warm body. As rude as that sounds, the development of defensive players lended to the idea we were in a perpetual loop of doom.
Flash forward to a muggy day in Houston that saw Howard really blossom and dominate in a game that the Red Raiders were underdogs. Particularly the games against Houston, Kansas, and West Virginia were Howard’s best games. Disruptive, high motor, and great form are all compliments that can be heaped on his game. Without question, Howard has been the best Tech defensive end since Pete Robertson roamed the sidelines.
As I mentioned earlier, we’re blessed to have Howard enter only his Redshirt Sophomore season for the good guys. What I’ll personally like to see is better speed/burst from Howard off the line of scrimmage. I can think of a few occasions where he was merely half a step too slow, and the quarterback was able to release the ball. Should this progression be made, there’s no doubt that he’ll flirt with double digit sack totals, or double digit tackles for loss.
The loss of Mych Thomas will definitely affect the defensive line, but the development of Broderick Washington is paramount to the success of a guy like Howard. The more one on ones that Howard can field, the better off our defense will be. If I were a betting man, I wouldn’t bet that he’ll be on any pre-season watch lists, but he’ll certainly be on the radar of opposing Offensive Coordinators.
Eli Howard is a budding super star for the Red Raiders, and his star could certainly shine bright in 2018.