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15 DAYS TO 2021 KICKOFF: Will Howard

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In which BracketCat counts down the 15th day until the 2021 kickoff with a profile of Kansas State quarterback Will Howard.

#15 Will Howard
Thrown into the fire under less than ideal circumstances, freshman quarterback Will Howard (15) acquitted himself decently well as a starter in 2020, all things considered. As he (hopefully, because it means Skylar Thompson doesn’t get injured) takes a backseat in 2021, it’s all about building for 2022 and beyond for Howard.
Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

NOTE: Kansas State has elected to advance players’ classification even though the 2020 season did not affect eligibility. Those who wish to take advantage of this extra year will be listed as a (“super”) senior again after their original eligibility would have been exhausted.

Goal No. 15: LEADERSHIP. Everyone can set the example.

#15 Will Howard

True Sophomore | 6-4 | 235 lbs. | Downingtown, Pennsylvania
Will Howard
Will Howard
Courtesy Kansas State Athletics
  • Position: Quarterback
  • Previous College: None
  • Projection: Second-String
  • Status: On Scholarship

William Thomas Howard (b. Sept. 24, 2001) is a taller, elite pro-style quarterback from Downington High School West in Pennsylvania who is majoring in business administration.

He enrolled in time for spring practices in 2020 and quickly became the primary backup, which lasted just 2 12 games until Skylar Thompson’s injury pressed him into starting duties.

In all, Howard played in nine games in 2020, with starts in each of the final seven contests, and he was one of just four true freshman quarterbacks in the nation to make at least seven starts during the 2020 season.

He threw for 1,178 yards and eight touchdowns on 90-of-168 aim, rushed for 364 yards and three scores on 78 attempts, and set the school record for passing touchdowns by a freshman, while his passing yardage and total offense (1,542) total ranked third.

Howard also ranked fifth in school history among freshmen in rushing yards, and he is the only freshman quarterback ever to reach the top five in that category. He averaged 13.09 yards per completion, the second-highest nationally among true freshmen in 2020.

Howard earned his first career start at TCU, becoming the first true freshman quarterback in school history to earn a win in his first career road start.

His season highlight came when he busted an 80-yard run against the Horned Frogs; it tied for the seventh-longest run in school history and was the second longest by a quarterback.

His scamper at TCU also was the fifth-longest run among quarterbacks in the nation during the 2020 season and was the fourth longest by a true freshman, regardless of position.

Howard picked up Big 12 Newcomer of the Week honors following the TCU game, then backed up that with a win in his next start against Kansas as he became the first true freshman in school history to win his first two career starts.

He tallied 243 passing yards against the Jayhawks, the fifth most by a true freshman quarterback in school history, and then totaled 125 rushing yards against Oklahoma State, tied for the fifth most by a freshman in school history and the highest by a quarterback.

Howard also played a majority of the Texas Tech game, leading the Wildcats to a comeback victory after they trailed 21-17 in the fourth quarter.

He had passing plays of 66 and 70 yards against the Red Raiders, becoming the first Wildcat quarterback with two passes of at least 65 yards in the same game since the 2017 season opener and the first in a Big 12 Conference game since 2013.

Prior to enrolling early, Howard prepped under head coach Mike Milano at Downingtown West, where he was viewed as the 13th-best pro-style quarterback in the Class of 2020 by 247Sports, while ESPN ranked him as the 26th-best dual-threat quarterback in the class.

He also was regarded as the seventh-best overall prospect in the state of Pennsylvania by 247Sports and No. 11 by ESPN.

Named the All-Southeastern Pennsylvania Player of the Year by The Philadelphia Inquirer, Howard also was designated all-state by the Pennsylvania Football Writers Association and named the Maxwell Football Club Pennsylvania Player of the Year.

He threw for 5,308 yards and 48 touchdowns during his prep career for the Whippets, including a 2,543-yard, 27-touchdown performance as a senior to lead Downingtown West to a 13-2 record, a trip to the state semifinals and the Whippets’ first district title since 1996.

Downingtown West went 11-2 and earned a trip to the state playoffs during Howard’s junior season. In all, he rushed for 512 yards and 21 touchdowns as a prep, and also played basketball, earning a pair of all-area honors after being a 1,000-point scorer in his career.

Regarding Howard’s decision to enroll early at K-State, The Philly Voice correctly opined:

If anyone is equipped to do this, it’s Howard. He possesses all of the components, carrying a weighted 4.34 GPA and a 1,380 score on the SAT. He was the leader of the Whippets’ best season ever, and displayed great character in standing up to questions after throwing two interceptions in the state semifinal loss to Central Dauphin.

An academic as well as athletic prize, Howard chose K-State over offers from Bowling Green, Cincinnati, Columbia, Cornell, Fordham, Harvard, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Morgan State, Princeton, Rutgers, Temple, Toledo and Yale, as well as interest from Boston College, Duke, Georgia, Kent State, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Penn State, Pittsburgh and Syracuse. His primary recruiters were offensive line coach Conor Riley and his current position coach, quarterbacks coach Collin Klein.

Like many of the 2020 signees, Howard noticed when K-State upset Oklahoma in 2019:

“I knew Coach (Chris Klieman) was going to bring a winning culture. He comes in as the coach of one of the greatest college football dynasties in recent memory. He just instilled that winning culture,” Howard said. “Everybody was, like, ‘Man, look at K-State.’ I was, like, ‘Yeah, I know. I expected this. This isn’t anything out of the ordinary.’”

He was the first Pennsylvania player to sign with the Wildcats since Andre Coleman in 1990.