90i #14: Jake Howe
6'-3", 295 lbs.
Junior (on scholarship, 2 years to play 2)
McHenry High School / McHenry, Illinois
Jersey Number: #95
What I Know About Him:
Jake Howe has perhaps my favorite stat line from high school. Keep in mind, this is our 300 lb defensive tackle we're talking about. 97 carries for 523 yards. 41 receptions for 414 yards. 50 tackles, three sacks, four forced fumbles... did he punt, too? Wait - did he punt? Somebody look it up and tell me if he punted.
Howe could probably be the perfect case study if someone wanted to write an article about college football recruiting. Yes, you chase skill players who are good at doing football things, but when you're recruiting linemen, you almost don't care if they can do football things. You look at their frame and you look at their athleticism, and that's pretty much it. Can you pack more muscle on that frame? Will they be able to move quick enough once you do? If the answer is yes to both, you offer a scholarship.
So we looked at Howe, saw that he could move around pretty good for a guy with a big frame (41 catches, 97 carries), and offered him a scholarship. The next step: put him in a lab for three years, pack weight and muscle on his frame, and teach him to do football things. The result: a 300 lb. defensive tackle ready to start in his fourth (junior) season.
What I Expect From Him:
There's one thing missing from the formula above: experience. You typically want that "ready to start by his fourth year" guy to play a lot of football his third season. And that was the plan for Howe. But in the first Big Ten game last year, Howe broke his arm and missed the remainder of the season.
So now he enters his first year as a starter with mostly dry feet. That's never a good thing. There's nothing like on-the-job experience, and Howe will have to get that while in hand-to-hand combat with Cincinnati and Washington offensive linemen. It might be rough going for a while.
But by the end of the year, I think Howe might end up on Illini fans' "pleasant surprises" list. Nobody is expecting anything from this defensive line, so if he can solidify the nose tackle position - his job is mostly to tie up linemen so that Bad News Brown and Monheim Steamroller can do their thing - it can go a long way towards making this defense a surprise.