Tuesday, July 02, 2019

FCS 2019 PREVIEW: Howard Football Wants A Serious Bounce Back

Howard is previewed as part of our two-month "Three-a-Days" series previewing all 126 FCS teams and 13 conferences -- every single day.

Published on July 01, 2019 at 7:30 PM EDT

Updated on July 01, 2019 at 8:35 PM EDT

HERO Sports welcomes you to "Three-a-Days", where we will preview every single one of the 126 FCS​ programs, with three teams being released each day from June 17 to July 28. Then, we'll preview all 13 conferences from August 1-4. Today, we present ... Howard.

We'll leave no stone left unturned when it comes to giving the FCS diehards all they could ask for this offseason. Learn about every program in the country, with HERO Sports.

HOWARD (4-6 IN 2018)


COACH: Ron PrinceAt School: 1st year (0-0 record) Overall: 5th year (17-20)
2018 OFFENSE: 33.6 ppg (21st in FCS)
2018 DEFENSE: 34.1 ppg. (94th in FCS)
KEY GAME: Oct. 26 - @ North Carolina A&T: If Howard wants to jump back into the MEAC race, this is a game it will have to prove itself in. Last year and in 2017, they didn't play each other because of MEAC schedule rotation. Now, the Aggies are back on the schedule with a heap of curiosity out there about how the Bison -- behind uber-talented QB Caylin Newton -- will stack up.
SUM IT UP: Last year, Howard lost four games by less than a touchdown and is a hungry program because of its impressive 2017 season -- which produced seven wins and its first-ever FBS win (at UNLV) and nearly a second the next week (at Kent State). That 2017 team was young, so you have to think last year didn't sit well with the Bison program. Its players will be hungry to fix that​ this year and certainly has the weapons to make things happen. Losing head coach Mike London to William & Mary was a hit, but the school really did well with the hiring of Ron Prince, who has been an NFL assistant and the head coach at Kansas State. Prince returns to the FCS/I-AA level after a 19-year hiatus, as he was an assistant in the 1990s at James Madison, Cornell, S.C. State and Alabama A&M.
This offense is potent and is almost completely intact from last year. There's the Caylin Newton (yes, for the millionth time -- Cam's little brother) to Jequez Ezzard connection in the passing game to consider. Ezzard isn't the only skill player who can make plays, though he did average 26.6 yards per catch. If the O-line can find a couple of new studs up front, this offense will be just as good if not better than it was last year when it posted the 15th best total offense average in the FCS. Don't be surprised when the Bison hit the 40-point mark a bunch this fall. 
Defense is where the Bison really want to see serious improvement, especially against the run. Teams were able to grind down the defense and the turnover margin was statistically one of the worst in the FCS. Bottom line? Howard wasn't slowing anybody down last year and wasn't forcing turnovers, so that's something the team wants to remedy. There is talent here, for sure. Safety Tye Freeland held ACC scholarship offers and was the No. 4 overall rated FCS signee in the HERO Sports 2017 signing day rankings. He has played like a star from day one, and he and LB Marcellos Allison are solid cornerstones. If this unit could take a defense giving up 34.1 points per game to say, 25 points per game? Then this team is going to be competing for a MEAC championship.
OUR TAKE: This is a very strong program that made a great hiring decision with its new head coach. Last year was a head-scratching blip, but easily could have been an eight-win season. This year, the first two games (at Maryland, at Youngstown State) will not be easy, nor will the trip to Harvard in October. The Bison didn't back down from anybody with that non-conference schedule. But once Howard hits the meat of that MEAC schedule, it is going to win some ballgames. Look for a win-total around seven, maybe eight if the defense really turns it up a notch. That'll be the key to whether this is a .500 season or an eight-win season. 
TOP RETURNEE: Sr./WR Jequez Ezzard (HERO Sports Preseason All American - 26.6 yards per catch - 40 catches, 1064 yds, 12 TDs).
THE FOUNDATION: Jr./QB Caylin Newton (1st Team All MEAC - 2,629 yds passing, 22 TDs -- 504 yds rushing, 4 TDs); Jr./FS Tye Freeland (66 tackles, 8 PBUs, 2 INTs); Sr./WR Kyle Anthony (1st Team All MEAC - 53 catches, 659 yds, 6 TDs); Sr./LB Marcellos Allison (3rd Team All MEAC - 71 tackles led Howard last year); Sr./OL Phillip Flemming (returning starter); Soph./SS Jayson Robinson (48 tackles, 5 PBUs, 3 forced fumbles); Soph./LB Zamon Robinson (32 tackles, 9 TFLs, 5.5 sacks, 5 hurries); Soph./RB Dedrick Parson (706 yds rushing, 9 TDs - leading rusher in 2018). 
TOP NEWCOMER: Fr./DB Cassan Dixon (No. 118 rated FCS signee in the HERO Sports 2019 rankings -- reported an N.C State offer among others)
THE QUOTE: "We are looking forward to one of the most ambitious schedules in Howard University football program history. This schedule provides our program with a challenging inventory of traditional & non-traditional opponents. This level of national exposure is befitting of a top-tier institution like Howard University and its stakeholders. It also aids in our ambition to become the District of Columbia's college football team." -- Head Coach Ron Prince said during spring ball

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