One day, Trent Howland would like to be a featured player in the Indiana backfield. First, though, he needs to get fully healthy.
The freshman running back is continuing to do exactly that, spending his first few weeks on IU’s campus focusing on the rehabilitation process that will fix the ACL he tore last fall. Because of Howland’s injury, along with the fact that IU already has a handful of ball carriers ahead of him on the depth chart entering the season, the Hoosiers aren’t likely to be in any rush to push the Joliet, Ill. native onto the field.
In the meantime, Howland is settling in with his new surroundings and leaning on his new teammates as he works to prepare his body to be in the best possible shape for fall camp next month.
“The guys, they’re a big help for me. I look up to them,” Howland recently told reporters. “At first, coming in, I thought it was going to be hard. But knowing I have those guys who have the experience of playing college football makes it much easier for me whenever I need help for anything, going through the plays or formations, where I line up and everything.”
Howland said he is approximately six months post-surgery — not quite fully football ready, perhaps, but far enough along that he’s able to work out and see that his return is on the horizon. He’s been able to run and jump, while also participating in team runs and player practices this summer.
“I’m just going through the motions, trying to get that feeling back to being normal,” Howland said.
Howland was one of two running backs that IU signed during the 2021 recruiting cycle, joining the program alongside classmate David Holloman. The two backs could complement each other well in the coming years, particuarly because Howland projects to offer power alongside Holloman’s speed.
The 6-foot-3, 230-pound Howland — much like former Hoosier Stevie Scott before him — was also a hard-hitting linebacker in high school, slotting as the No. 40 athlete nationally in the 247 Sports 2021 rankings. Running back is his sole role now, and with new position coach Deland McCullough guiding him at Indiana, Howland hopes to become a more complete and elusive option in the backfield.
First, Howland says, he needs to polish his pass blocking skills.
“That’s my main focus as to what I need to work on for myself because I was never really a good blocker,” Howland said. “But now that I’m at this next level, that’s what I’m focusing on getting better at so when it comes to me playing in a game and having to do that job, I’ll be ready for it.”
For now, patience is important — for IU and Howland, both. With Sampson James, Stephen Carr, Tim Baldwin and David Ellis all poised to compete for carries during fall camp, it may be a while still before Howland’s presence is felt. Of course, we’ll see how he looks — and how active he is — during fall camp.
In due time, the former three-star recruit should get his chance to power his way through Big Ten defenses, just as Indiana recruited him to do.
“I feel like I’m fitting in good,” Howland said.