December 27, 2011

2013 linebacker prospect keeping options open

Ford Howell grew up an Ole Miss fan.

Both of his parents graduated from the school. His grandfather, Jamie Howell, was a two-year starter in basketball and baseball for the Rebels in the late 1950s.

However, the junior linebacker from Memphis (Memphis University School), Tenn., isn't closing any doors this early in the process. He'll prove that over the next couple of days when he checks out the practices of both Cincinnati and Vanderbilt as the two teams prepare for their Liberty Bowl match-up in the Bluff City later this week.

"I like the coaches (at Cincinnati) a lot," Howell said. "I like the school. I've been up there two times. I watched a game and went to the camp last summer. I like everything about it.

"I went to (Vanderbilt's) game against Arkansas. I really like what Coach (James) Franklin has done with the team and I really like Coach (Herb) Hand. He recruits our area."

Then there's Ole Miss. The Rebels, still in the transition phase from Houston Nutt to Hugh Freeze, haven't made contact, but the ties to the school are strong.

"I'd definitely like to hear from them," said Howell, a 6-foot-1, 226-pounder who recorded 68 tackles as a junior. "I know they're trying to get their class from this year locked down. I have heard good things about Coach Freeze."

Howell said he plans to attend junior days at Ole Miss, Vanderbilt, Duke and Cincinnati over the next few months, mixing in visits to some other schools. Kentucky, Howell said, and "whoever asks" will likely get looks.

Howell, who bench presses 275 pounds, squats 450 and power cleans 275, had 14 tackles against South Panola (Batesville, Miss.) and nine against eventual Mississippi Class 5A state champion Olive Branch last season.

"I really feel like I have good instincts as a linebacker, good tackling ability and some strength," Howell said. "I want to work on my speed and getting better at reading plays.

"Our defense played really well during the regular season. We heard a lot about him coming in. I felt really good about how we did. We played a lot of big-time opponents and I feel that has prepared me for the next level."

Howell said an Ole Miss offer wouldn't necessarily end his recruiting.

"I'll have to weigh how I feel about them against how I feel about others," Howell said. "I haven't met the coaches, so I don't really know how I feel about them right now."

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