With only eight days left to get ready for the football season opener against tough Florida A&M Howard University coach Doug Porter said his team's preparations are going as planned.
"We're right where we want to be according to our preseason schedule," said Porter, beginning his fourth year at Howard. "Our practices have been going smoothly and I was impressed with some phases of our intrasquad scrimmage last week. Now, we'll just try to get our execution and timing down."
Porter said the defense needed overhauling after last season's 55-1 mark. Beset by injuries most of the year, the patchwork unit yielded an average of 178 yards rushing and 97 yards passing.
Porter cited defensive ends James Graham (6-foot-3 1/2, 218 pounds), formerly of Roosevelt and Rochester (Minn.) Junior College, Larry Hamilton (6-4 1/2, 260) and Paul Ball (6-2, 218); defensive tackle James Hunter (6-2, 260), and cornerback Herman Redding (6-2 1/2, 205) for outstanding play lately.
Seniors Hunter and Redding are highly regarded and could emerge as pro prospects.
The Howard offense, nicknamed the Bison Express, is extremely deep and could surpass the fine statistical year of 1974, Porter's first season here.
James Breakfield, Howard's first 1,000-yard rusher, is in top form. The quarterback job is still up for grabs between Ronald Wilson and Bryan Thomas, both having fine preseasons. Regardless of who comes out on top, sure-handed receivers Gregg Scott, Steve Wilson and either Dino Pierce or Roderick Walton will benefit.
So far, Howard has been relatively free of injuries. Only cornerback Stephen McNeely is hobbled, having suffered an ankle injury the first day of practice.
The Howard-Florida A&M game has always been a dogfight and this one should be no exception. Although not as powerful in recent years as they were at one time, the Rattlers have a fine nucleus of returnees and boast two wins over Howard in the last three years. A&M topped Howard, 6-0, last year in Tallahassee.
The Sept. 10 clash will be played in plush Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
"It's by far the finest stadium we will have played in although I would rather play on natural grass," said Porter. "Florida should be much stronger than they were a year ago (6-3-1). Coach (Rudy) Hubbard red-shirted a lot of players and I don't know a thing about them.
Two players Porter will have to be concerned about are Albert Chester, who passed for 1,051 yards and eight touchdowns last season, and nose guauard Tim Chavis.
More than 30,000 tickets have been sold for the game.