When will he step up? Will Lane Kiffin use him?
Both of these questions along with others have flooded the mind of Alabama tight end O.J. Howard since catching a 52-yard touchdown pass from quarterback AJ McCarron in 2013.
Two years have passed since that moment against Louisiana State University; however, Howard has been productive this season despite not reaching the end zone. He chimes in with 33 receptions for 394 yards, posting an 11.94 yards per catch average.
Alabama’s offense revolves around Derrick Henry and wide receiver Calvin Ridley, but the 6-foot-6 junior does make plays more times than not. Howard’s emerged in a few match-ups, with his best outing coming against Tennessee. He collected seven passes for 55 yards in a 19-14 win for the Crimson Tide.
With Michigan State focused on Henry in the Cotton Bowl, Howard was unleashed in the middle of the field. He totaled 59 receiving yards on three grabs, with one catch going for 41 yards. Clemson’s concern for Ridley and sophomore ArDarius Stewart opens an avenue for Howard. His size will be pivotal in the red zone and his ability to create separation makes him a security blanket when Jacob Coker rolls out of the pocket.
Run blocking was once an issue for Howard, but that stigma is now long gone. He has blocked for 2,861 rushing yards with 30 touchdowns. The Cotton Bowl delivered Howard much of his confidence back. He can really establish himself as a solid player moving forward with a strong outing in Glendale, Ariz.