Defining Moment: OJ Howard vs Clemson

OJ Howard, the top TE prospect in the 2017 NFL Draft, and a fringe top 10 overall prospect in the Draft

OJ Howard is a monster. The 6'6" 242 pound tight end has every tool in the toolbox to be an unstoppable freak of nature for a offense at the next level, the speed, the hands, the smooth route running, and you can even throw in the fact that he’s a great blocker. Unfortunately for OJ, he was rarely ever targeted as much as he should have been in Lane Kiffin’s offense, so his stats don’t really show how great he truly is and can be. That is except for one game, the 2015 National Championship vs Clemson. OJ Howard ripped Clemson apart for 5 catches, 208 yards and 2 TDs and completely changed the complexion of the game on 3 huge plays over the course of the game. Now without further ado, let’s get into this dominant performance.

Here OJ Howard puts a very good block on 2016 2nd rounder Kevin Dodd, giving Derrick Henry a lane to slash through and gain 6–7 yards on the run. Howard set the tone early in this one, expect more good blocks like this one later on.

More good blocks like this one. The last block was more of a straightforward, drive your guy down the field block, but this block is different. This is an amazing seal block by Howard on the edge, once again creating the lane for Henry to dash through and go on to score.

Pro tip: Don’t leave OJ Howard unchecked in the flat. He’s gonna turn it up and get at least 10 yards after the catch every time. Here, he got 21 after the catch.

I’m torn man. Is this little fake block OJ Howard uses here a skill? Every time he does it, it results in a huge play (i.e. 2016 National Championship vs Clemson, same route, same result). I think it’s a skill, but for the non-believers in that category there’s still something to love here. Jake Coker shows off his noodle arm here, making OJ have to sit and wait for the ball, effectively giving the safety time to gain ground on him. The safety does in fact gain ground on OJ but once he catches the ball he goes from 0 to 100 real quick, easily dashing by the safety for a touchdown. This was the first of his 3 game changing plays.

Clemson, didn’t I just give you the pro-tip to… oh, he wasn’t unchecked? You had someone covering him? Sorry, I didn’t notice because whoever you had on he got smoked. OJ Howard uses both the DB’s over aggressiveness and his own superior athleticism to easily get massive separation in the flats. Once again, Howard maximizes his YAC (yards after the catch), gaining 16 yards after the catch.

At the bottom of the screen, OJ gets to the second level and successfully drives his guy towards the sideline. Good stuff.

Whew, OJ Howard hit top speed so fast attacking the seams that it catches the corner off guard. The corner spent one second too long backpedaling and by the time he realized “Oh crap, we’re literally side by side I should probably flip my hips and run” it was far too late. Howard blazes by the corner and makes the 2nd game changing play of the game, giving Alabama the lead again. Imagine OJ going to a vertical passing scheme in the NFL, who’s gonna stop the size-speed combination of this freak? Not many people.

Hey man, I don’t give out pro tips for my own entertainment. This is a designed screen for OJ Howard, as he leaks into the flats and he is once again left unchecked. His receiver on the boundary does him no favors on the block but Howard just flexes his athleticism and simply runs around the corner. From there, there is nothing but open field for OJ and he sprints by everybody before getting pushed out by the safety for a HUGE 60 yard gain, completely flipping the field and putting Bama in the red zone. This was game changing play #3 and essentially the final nail in Clemson’s coffin, as Alabama would go on to clinch the game with a touchdown and win the National Championship.

Additional: Huge shoutout to Draft Breakdown for the brilliant work they do to produce this film to study.

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