Most Important Buckeyes: No. 17
By Brandon Castel
Photo by Dan Harker
COLUMBUS, Ohio — He wasn’t always a fan-favorite, but cornerback Travis Howard turned in his best year of football during Ohio State’s undefeated 2012 campaign.
In a few short months, Howard went from a guy who was battling to keep his spot away from up-and-coming sophomore Doran Grant to a first-team all-conference performer in the Big Ten.
He did not receive votes from everyone on our panel, but Howard comes in at No. 17 on our postseason countdown of the Most Important Buckeyes during a season to remember.
What Made Him Important?
Howard wasn’t always flashy, and he was often overshadowed by his counterpart, Bradley Roby, on the other side, but that doesn’t mean the senior wasn’t important to Ohio State’s undefeated season.
One of the main things that made him important was the dramatic improvement he showed from his redshirt junior season in 2011 to his first year under Urban Meyer and the new coaching staff, which includes position coach Kerry Coombs.
Howard led the Buckeyes with four interceptions this season, a number that tied three other players for the most in the Big Ten during the regular season. They weren’t all huge plays, but Howard found himself in the right place at the right time on a number of occasions this season.
One such occasion came at Indiana in week seven. The Buckeyes were expected to march into Bloomington and steamroll the Hoosiers on their home field, but that’s certainly not the way it played out under the lights.
The Buckeyes fell behind 14-10 in the early going before Howard got his hands on an Indiana punt. It was recovered by Roby in the end zone for a touchdown, giving the Buckeyes a 17-14 lead in the second quarter.
That would prove to be critical, because the Buckeyes nearly coughed away a 45-27 lead in the fourth quarter, holding on for a narrow 52-49 win on the road to improve their record to 7-0, setting up the big finish with wins over Purdue, Penn State, Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan.
What Would The Buckeyes Have Done Without Him?
Besides the fact they may not have gotten out of Bloomington with a win, the Buckeyes probably would have been OK without Howard this season. He did miss some time with lingering stingers in his right shoulder, but Coombs felt like he hard a third guy who was very capable of starting at this level in Doran Grant.
Except Grant didn’t always look that great when he was forced into action by one of those stingers, and the Buckeyes would have been in real trouble if they had to go to a fourth cornerback. The season is over and we still can’t be sure who that fourth guy would have been, especially after freshman Najee Murray was lost for the season with a knee injury.
Fellow freshman Armani Reeves also missed some time with a high ankle sprain, and the Buckeyes probably would have been forced to turn things over to sophomore Adam Griffin if anything would have happened to Howard and Grant.
How Does It Compare to Our Preseason Expectations?
Much like the first two guys on our postseason countdown of the Most Important Buckeyes, Kenny Guiton and Garrett Goebel, Howard was not exactly on our radar back in the preseason.
We heard all about “Howard Island” during the preseason last year, but the Miami native did not live up to those expectations during the 2011 regular season. Even Urban Meyer pointed out that Howard should have been a lot better than he was during the first four years of his career, and worked hard to improve his game as a senior in 2012.
He certainly wasn’t perfect this year, and there were a number of times he gave up some big plays that could have really hurt the Buckeyes and their chances for an undefeated season. Howard got burned badly on the first play in that Wisconsin game, but the ball fell harmlessly to the turf.
It could have easily been a touchdown, but Howard did a good job of putting those plays behind him. That’s what a good cornerback has to do, and the Buckeyes needed Howard to be good in 2012.
No. 18 C.J. Barnett
No. 19 Garrett Goebel
No. 20 Kenny Guiton
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