ULM’s Tyrone Howell Back to Stack on His Breakout Season

Paul Letlow
When a college football player enjoys a breakout season in today's world of microwave transfers and early exits for pro ball, it can raise concerns that said player might be moving on.
Big-play wide receiver Tyrone Howell's emergence as the most dangerous man in ULM's offense last season fueled fears among locals that he might be one and done.
For Howell though, ULM had given him a great landing spot after leaving Kansas State. He'd been productive as a Warhawk and knew he needed to continue refining his game to reach the next level. Leaving too soon might scuttle his momentum.
"Having a breakout year, I'm blessed," Howell said after a recent preseason practice. "It was a thing where I sat down and talked to God, talked to my parents and they were like, 'You've got one more year. You better use it. You've got one more chance to up your draft stock.
"And, I love it here. I knew if I came back, I can have an even better year."
The super senior led ULM in receptions (50), receiving yards (852) and touchdown receptions (6) in 2022. The 6-foot-3, 204-pound Howell led the team in receptions in five of the last six games in 2022 and finished with three 100-yard receiving games.
"He's been through the transfer thing a few times," ULM head coach Terry Bowden said. "I think he's focused on having a great year and we have big expectations for him. He went out and had a banner year last year. Now, we know he's one of our playmakers that we've got to work with."
A product of Idabel, Oklahoma, Howell appeared in all 12 regular-season games during the 2021 season at Kansas State and had seven catches for 98 yards. He transferred to Kansas State from Hutchinson Community College, where he helped the Blue Dragons to a National Championship in the spring of 2021.
After beginning his college football career at DII Central Oklahoma, Howell transferred to Hutchinson CC, had his fall season canceled, and then played a pivotal role in Hutch winning the NJCAA National Championship. Howell caught 18 passes for 301 yards and three touchdowns in the spring 2021 season, including six catches for 108 yards against Snow in the NCAA National Championship Game.
"He's 6-3, 204 and runs well," Bowden said. "But his athleticism is his greatest asset over his back-end speed. He's got good back-end speed and he runs so well with his pads. It's amazing how many long runs he gets. Not just because he outruns them, but they can't tackle him. He stiff arms them and he's just strong."
After his solid 2022 campaign, Howell listened to the feedback he received from ULM assistant coaches like Davis Lewandowski, a former receiver at Michigan State. He talked to NFL scouts and absorbed their advice too.
"Scouts came, watched and talked to the coaches," Howell said. "Scouts were saying that I needed to work on my releases or top of the routes. Stuff like that. There was a lot I can improve on. I knew if I came back and worked on that, I can be an elite receiver."
ULM receivers coach John Carr, whose father Roger was a star pass-catcher with the NFL's Colts in the 1970s, also has provided Howell with the direction he sought.
"He's been pushing me," Howell said. "He knows this is my last year and he wants me to be great. Every little thing, he lets me know. We're watching film every day and he's telling me the little stuff I can do to get better."
Howell said he's already spent plenty of time working with new starting quarterback Jiya Wright.
"It's crazy because last summer when I stayed, we already built that connection," Howell said. "But we're still working on it."
Howell offered up his scouting report on Wright, who contended to be ULM's starter in 2022.
"He's got a strong arm," Howell said. "He can roll out of the pocket if he needs to and see the field. He likes to take shots."
Even while breaking a new starting quarterback, ULM kept Howell under wraps in the spring to make sure he'd be healthy for the upcoming season.
"It was more of a maintenance thing," Howell said. "They told me they wanted to let the younger guys get more reps."
Said Bowden: "In the spring, we didn't want to get him hurt. But now, we're getting him ready to play."
Howell won't sneak up on anyone in 2023 as he resumes his role as one of ULM's top weapons. He's been named to the Preseason Watch List for the Biletnikoff Award, presented annually since 1994 to the outstanding Football Bowl Subdivision receiver, regardless of position. In addition, Howell has earned preseason All-Sun Belt recognition from Pro Football Focus (first team), Athlon Sports (first team), the conference's head coaches and media panel (second team) and Phil Steele (second team).
"I'm not giving away secrets," Bowden said. "We've got to get him the ball. So, you want six or seven touches a game by a guy like that. Maybe return punts and those kinds of things. There's always been that kind of rule – put the ball in the hands of your playmakers and let them make plays. He is a playmaker."
Howell is a versatile weapon capable of making tough catches in traffic or taking short receptions for a long ride.
"My favorite thing is getting YAC – yards after catch," Howell said. "That's what's going to get you to that next level. I try to watch a little bit of everybody. I watch jump-ball receivers. I like to watch little short receivers and add all that to my game."
Howell tied TCU's Taye Barber and Nebraska's Trey Palmer for the NCAA FBS lead with three receptions of 70 or more yards, including an 89-yard reception against the Ragin' Cajuns and 75- and 83-yard TD receptions at South Alabama.
Howell's superlatives have already ranked him with several ULM receiving legends.
He erupted for a career-best 244 receiving yards and three touchdowns on nine catches in ULM's 41-34 loss at South Alabama. It was the second-highest single-game total in school history, the first 200-yard receiving performance for a ULM player since Marty Booker did it in 1996 against UCF, and the 10th 200-yard receiving game in program history.
"When you've got an impressive player like Tyrone Howell that can make plays in one-on-one matchups against a very good defensive back like we had in Darrell Luter, that's a scary opponent to have to deal with," South Alabama coach Kane Wommack said at Sun Belt Conference Media Days."
The ULM record for receiving yards was set by L Club Hall of Famer Stepfret Williams, who caught 10 passes for 264 yards against Nevada in 1995. Howell's three receiving touchdowns (75, 25 and 83 yards) were the most since Brent Leonard scored four against South Alabama in 2012.
Howell is the headliner but only part of a room of talented receivers and knows defenses will need to account for others besides him. He's willing to share the wealth.
"It's crazy," Howell said. "It's probably the best receiver room I've been in, and I've been to four different schools. There's speed everywhere. I think we're going to be one of the top receiving corps in the nation."

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