Defensive end leaves NU, will transfer to Arizona State

Scott Duncan

KENOSHA, Wis. –Northwestern’s roller-coaster preseason took another improbable turn Saturday when senior defensive end Loren Howard said he will transfer from NU to Arizona State after having season-ending knee surgery.

“I thought I needed time to rehab and I wanted to go home and be with my family and friends during that time,” said Howard, who is originally from Saguaro, Ariz. “It’s the best thing for me to do.”

Howard said his decision to transfer was based on the effects of having his third major surgery in two years, and the prospect of being at NU a year longer than he had anticipated. Coach Randy Walker said Howard told him that part of his decision was based on his belief that NU did not fit his style of play.

“I’ve been doing things this way for 30 years and I think it’s the way I do it, and so he’s probably right,” Walker said. “I’ve been doing a lot of self-analysis, but I have a lot of confidence in what we believe and embrace in this program.” Howard, who was named honorable mention All-Big Ten in 2003, is fifth in NU history with 34 tackles-for-loss and 11 sacks.

Howard’s decision to transfer comes less than two months after two former NU teammates and 2004 starters, senior cornerback Jeff Backes and junior center Trevor Rees, left the team. Backes decided to forego his final season because of a lingering shoulder injury, and Rees was suspended for academic reasons.

After sitting out spring practices with knee tendinitis, Howard returned when the Wildcats began their preseason on Aug. 8. But after the first few practices, Howard said he realized he wasn’t ready to play.

After having discussions with the NU training staff and orthopedic specialists, Howard said he decided that he would have season-ending surgery.

He will have the surgery Wednesday in Chicago.

The loss of Howard leaves an inexperienced defensive line with only one returning starter, senior defensive tackle Barry Cofield. Former linemen Luis Castillo and Colby Clark graduated last year. The San Diego Chargers took Castillo in the first round of the 2005 NFL Draft.

“Quite honestly we knew five or six days ago that we weren’t going to have him this year anyway so it was irrelevant,” Walker said. “I guess I’ll worry about it in 2006 how much Loren Howard means to us.”

As of Monday night, Howard had been released from NU but had not officially enrolled at Arizona State. Howard will sit out the mandatory one-year period after he signs with the Sun Devils. Howard said he will not have a scholarship for the fall semester because Arizona State has filled all of its scholarships, but will receive a scholarship in January.

When he begins playing for the Sun Devils, Howard said he is most excited about rejoining his good friend and high school teammate, ASU defensive end Kyle Caldwell.

The Cats will travel to Tempe, Ariz., on Sept. 17 to play the Sun Devils.

Howard said he will be at the game to “give all my former teammates hugs when it’s over.”

“I’ve made great friendships with my teammates at Northwestern,” Howard said. “The team is a bunch of unique and class-act guys, some of my best friends for life. But considering the circumstances, going back to Arizona was the best decision for me.”

Horn, Dious suspended

Walker announced last week that senior wide receiver Brandon Horn was suspended for the entire 2005 season because of a violation of team rules.

“It hurts our depth and you hate to lose bodies,” Walker said. “But our key players are still Mark Philmore, Jonathan Fields and Shaun Herbert. And Kim Thompson is having a great camp so he would be fifth or sixth (receiver) anyway.”

Horn had 24 catches for 205 yards and two touchdowns last season.

Walker also announced sophomore cornerback Cory Dious was suspended for one week and the opening game of the season against Ohio for a violation of team rules.

Jordan sidelined “long term”

Senior running back Terrell Jordan is out indefinitely, while recovering from a hamstring injury.

Walker said Jordan is out “long term” and will definitely miss the season-opener against Ohio.

With Jordan’s injury, sophomore Brandon Roberson has been taking most of the snaps at starting running back, with freshmen Omar Conteh and Tyrell Sutton also in the running.

“I continue to be impressed with Brandon Roberson,” Walker said. “He came out here after an impressive spring and has continued it here in the first week of camp.

“And I like the two freshmen, Sutton and Conteh. I thought when we recruited them they were going to do something special, and they have done nothing to disappoint.”