Coach Floyd Keith is not quite ready to push the panic button because of Howard's poor defensive work, but he is keeping his finger flexed.
With the Bison coming off a 55-17 thrashing at the hands of South Carolina State and preparing for Saturday's tough match against defending national 1-AA champion Florida A&M, Keith is ready to try some new players in an attempt to rejuvenate the defense.
Tagged the "Blue Demons," Howard's defense has been bedeviled by a trio of opponents that gained a total of 1,203 yards. S.C. State bounced over and through the Bison for a whopping 504 yards. Sloppy tackling by the Bison was State's biggest offensive aid.
Keith has inserted Corky McCorkle at closed (strong-side) linebacker in place of Kenneth Pimpton. Freshman Jimmy Diggs will get the call in place of Ricky Triplett at closed cornerback; either Eric Redding or Bob Sowell will move from closed to open corner, and freshman Courtney Brown will replace either Larry Hamilton or Ralph Grimes at defensive tackle, depending on this week's practices.
"There are times when we've played really well on defense," said Keith. "But the big thing is that we have yet to put together a complete game."
The Blue Demons have had moments of both brilliant and lackluster play, usually in the same game. West Virginia State saw its quarterbacks sacked a whopping dozen times but still managed to break runs of 55 and 44 yards.
The big play has hurt the Bison in all three games. Opponents have broken runs of at least 37 yards four times. The freshman and sophomore-dominated backfield has yielded pass plays of 76 and 66 yards.
"We just didn't tackle well," said Keith in explaining the big plays. "For awhile, we will stop the other guys. Then we relax and bang-bang, the other guys have broken one."
"There's nothing you can do about sloppy tackling except execute. We can't solve it by changing anything we do in practice or our defensive signals. The only thing I've changed since the beginning of the season is my pipe tobacco."
Keith has made another change, on offense. Sophomore Clyde Davis, a linebacker in the preseason, will step in for freshman center Tim Robinson. "He's awfully aggressive on special teams and I think he deserves a chance to play," Keith said.
Three quarterbacks saw game time against South Carolina and State: Brian Thomas, Ron Wilson and Raymond Gray.
Wilson has started the last two games, with Thomas quick to see action when Keith feels the need of a running quarterback. The coach would not disclose who would start against FAMU.