Keep your eyes on No. 5. That's the warning Julian Howsare's opponents heed going into every game against Clarion University. And, even though they might see him, that doesn't mean they can avoid the senior tackling machine.
Last year's PSAC-West Defensive Player of the Year piled up 83 tackles, 18 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, two interceptions and two forced fumbles. He is ready to wreak more havoc this fall.
"I am real excited," he said. "This is a big year."
Julian Howsare was PSAC-West Defensive Player of the Year last season.
The Altoona product comes with a big target, too. Although, he had one last year after a standout sophomore season and that didn't limit him.
"That's the kind of stuff that motivates me and makes me work harder because I know teams will be game planning for me," he said. "When teams do that, it helps the other guys on my defense get openings to make plays, too."
The Golden Eagles have moved around Howsare, a rising defensive end, to help keep opponents guessing. That shuffle should continue this fall.
"Anybody who watched us last year realized we did some different things to put him in different spots so that teams couldn't dictate where he was going to be. We wanted to dictate where he was going to be," Clarion coach Jay Foster said. "Against Slippery Rock, he played linebacker and had two interceptions. Against Edinboro, he was credited with three sacks, but had five. Two of them were called back in a game where we did a lot of the same things. We know he is our best football player. He is intelligent enough to make the adjustments. We have to continue to move him around."
In addition to his increased versatility, Howsare spent the offseason improving his skills and fitness.
"The biggest thing I did this offseason was to find out what my weaknesses were, as a player, and I focused on working on that. I got a trainer this summer and I had had him work with me on some things he felt I should work on," he said. "I think I feel a lot more ready about this season than I did in years past, both physically and mentally. I have three years of experience now. I feel faster and stronger than I ever have."
That's bad news for Clarion's opponents because they have to contend with him on special teams as well as defense. He blocked four kicks last year.
"He has been an impact player since his first year. There are a couple things to me that stand out. He is on every special team and has never asked off one of them. That includes last year," Foster said. "We took him off one of the teams to give him a little rest and he lasted less than a week before he bugged us to get back on the team. He makes an impact whenever he is on the field.
"Second, every year, I've asked him to bring a little something different. We've talked in the spring and discussed an aspect he's needed to add to his game. Each year, he's come in and done that. He takes coaching so well, learns and puts it to work. That's been huge," he continued. "Hopefully, he's done the same things this summer that he's done in the past and we'll see as the season goes on. He is so coachable. For all the accolades he's had, he hasn't felt like he's bigger than anybody else or bigger than the team. He has been a great kid to coach. And he was a 4.0 student in the spring."
The 6-foot-3, 255-pound Howsare continues to garner attention as he earned several NCAA Division II preseason All-American honors. More than anything, though, he just wants to help his team win. The Golden Eagles went 4-7 overall and 2-5 in the PSAC-West last year. The squad was picked seventh in the preseason poll.
"It's kind of crazy to think this is my last year, but it'll make it a lot better if we do some big things in the PSAC this year," he said. "Individually, I want to keep improving as a player and give myself a chance to get to the next level. I have talked to a couple of scouts and have some coming through to camp to watch me. Right there, that's enough motivation for me to keep working toward that goal."
Foster believes Howsare has the potential to play professional football.
"I think so and the people at the next level seem to think so. They've been calling and watching him and he's on their radar. The first step is already in progress he's got people to notice him," he said. "The next step will be, now with all the pressure and eyes looking at him, to have another great year. I've told him it doesn't have to be the same year statistically, but it has to be the same impact-wise. If he can get this team to win, that's one more thing. He has the work ethic and willingness to change and learn and do whatever he has to do to be successful. Can he play at the next level? That's still to be seen, but he's on their radar."
And, he's on the radar of every one of Clarion's opponents.