Amariyon Howard carving out role in Starkville offense


Starkville running back Amariyon Howard finds a hole for a gain against a stingy Brandon defense on Aug. 23.

Starkville running back Amariyon Howard finds a hole for a gain against a stingy Brandon defense on Aug. 23. Photo by: Austin Frayser/Dispatch file photo


Ben Portnoy



STARKVILLE -- There's no simple solution for stopping Starkville junior running back Amariyon Howard.


At 5-foot-9, 196 pounds -- up from around 185 pounds a season ago -- he's got the size to battle in the trenches and between the tackles. Yet with speed Yellow Jackets coach Chris Jones says clocks in around 4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash, the balanced back can burn defenses around the edges.


"To me he's very complete," junior quarterback Luke Altmyer said. "He has great speed and strength -- he's hard to tackle in space."



Fresh off his second 100-yard game of the season in last week's 35-7 win over Louisville, Howard is beginning to find steadier footing in the Starkville backfield.


In four games this season, the Mississippi State target has done his damage in limited spurts. Howard has racked up 289 yards and a touchdown on just 43 carries -- averaging 6.7 yards per touch. Further, he's eclipsed 12 carries in a game just once, as he notched 15 against Louisville.


"I think it gave me a lot of confidence, and it helped the offensive line get confidence because we got a lot of yards," Howard said of last Friday's win. "They helped me get 106 yards, and so I think we've got a lot of confidence coming into the next few weeks."


The limited touches aren't so much an indictment on Howard's skills as they are a product of the system he operates within. Jones' wide-open offense centers around the ability to throw the ball all over the field, and the Yellow Jackets have done just that -- having attempted at least 29 passes in every game this season.


That said, Howard's backbreaking speed and physicality has earned him reported offers from MSU, Louisiana-Monroe and Southern Miss.


"Anytime you can get your run game going it's always great," Jones said. "It opens up the passing game, helps the defense out -- keeps them off the field a little bit -- so anytime you get your running game going it's always great, so hopefully we can continue that phase of it, and hopefully we'll get better as a unit because of being able to run the ball."


Heading into this weekend's contest against Meridian, Howard should be a featured component of the offense once more, as the Wildcats are allowing 43.25 points per game this season.


"We can't take them for granted, sleep on them, because they do have talent, do have some athletes," Jones said. "And it's only a matter of time before they get it together and get back to winning like they used to do."


And while Altmyer and the stable of capable receivers he boasts remain a focal point of the Starkville offense, Howard is quietly carving a niche as one of the more dominant touch-for-touch running backs in the state.




Ben Portnoy reports on Mississippi State sports for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @bportnoy15.


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