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May 4, 2012

NC State lands inside linebacker



Memphis (Tenn.) University School middle linebacker Ford Howell became NC State's third commitment this spring.

The 6-foot-2, 226-pounder picked NC State over offers from Western Kentucky and Lehigh on Friday. NCSU linebackers coach Jon Tenuta landed Howell for the Wolfpack.

"Coach Tenuta came to the school yesterday [Thursday], and I had gone up there not too long ago on a visit and I loved it," Howell said. "Coach Tenuta and I had a talk for a long time yesterday. My dad and I decided this was the best choice for me."

Howell liked having Tenuta be able to recruit him to NC State and then coach him when he arrives.

"I really like Coach Tenuta and everybody I've talked to already knew who he was," Howell said. "He seems like a great guy and a good coach.

"Coach [Tom] O'Brien was excited and he congratulated me on my decision. He said, 'Welcome to the family.'"

Howell attended one of NC State's junior days and hopes to major in business.

"I really like Raleigh and thought it was a great town," Howell said. "Everything up there reminded me of home and I liked the whole area. NC State is known for some good academics too, so that is also what I was looking for."

Howell finished with 57 tackles, three tackles for loss, one breakup and three quarterback hurries in 11 games played last year. University School finished 8-4 squad under long-time coach Bobby Alston.

"NC State is getting a physical inside linebacker who plays real well playing downhill to the ball," said Alston, who has been head coach at the school since 1998. "He's a guy who is a quality person and will play the game physically and with toughness."

Howell had several other colleges from power conferences express interest, but he didn't want to wait to see what other programs would do. He knew where he wanted to go.

"Northwestern, Wake Forest and also maybe Vanderbilt and Mississippi State, were close to offering, but I was ready to go," Howell said.

Howell was clocked running a 4.7-second 40-yard dash, benched 275 pounds and had a 450 on the squat. Alston knew Howell was closing on his college decision.

"They've been corresponding back-and-forth and felt it was a good place to go to school," Alston said. "There was a level of trust there between the player and the coach. Ford was very comfortable there."

The chance to play in a major conference was also a draw for Howell. He has started the last two years and is poised for a big senior year.

"Anything he does to improve his game laterally and improve his ability to cover guys out of the backfield [will help]," Alston said. "He is a solid guy in the run game. He is a serious competitor and plays the game to win. He is serious about anything that involves working out. He is all-in on it."

Howell already is putting in the time to help University School next fall.

"I've been working hard a lot in the weight room and especially on my speed," Howell said. "I've gotten a lot faster and stronger than last year. That will help me make more plays than in past years."

Howell hopes to return to Raleigh this summer, so his mother and sister can also check out the school. He watched the Wolfpack play a few games on television this past year and is excited about the future.

"I saw a few of their games and I watched the spring game [on ESPN3.com] a few weeks ago," Howell said. "I liked the way they play and they'll have a good foundation for a good team for years to come. I'd like to be a part of it."


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