In his first major personnel change since taking over the team, Howard Coach Joe Taylor said yesterday he would start freshman Kenny Jones over senior Sandy Nichols at quarterback in Saturday's football game against Bucknell.
"I anticipate both quarterbacks will play, but right now we're going with Kenny Jones," said Taylor. "Sandy needs a few more workouts before he's comfortable, and he knows it. It's not a personality decision at all. But we think Kenny can do the job."
Nichols had been the Bison's regular quarterback the last two seasons, starting 16 of 22 games and winning 10, and he led the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference in passing and total offense in 1982. Nichols was challenged in spring practice by junior Brian Sloan, and reported late to Howard's summer workouts.
Nichols also has had difficulty adapting to Taylor's offensive system.
"The decision surprised me a little, but I have no control over it," said Nichols, who was selected second-team all-MEAC last year. "I talked to Coach Taylor, and I told him I still wasn't comfortable with his system. It requires a lot of quarterback movement, and it lost me."
Nichols started last week's 15-10 loss to Liberty Baptist, completing 13 of 22 passes for 102 yards. But his two interceptions and inability to move the team within the 20-yard line disappointed Taylor.
"We've got to improve our performance inside the 20-yard lines," said Taylor. "We've got to work harder in that area. This offense needs a quarterback with quick feet. But while Sandy is well-trained to run an option offense, quickness was never required of him.
"But Kenny is very quick. We feel he can expose a lot of (Bucknell's) weaknesses."
Jones, who did not play against Liberty Baptist, is a 6-foot-2, 175-pound graduate of H.D. Woodson High. Taylor told him on Monday he would work out with the first team, and Jones says he does not feel nervous.
"The decision surprised me, but I'm just glad to get the opportunity to play so quickly," said Jones. "I'll try and just take my time and play my game. Even if I go out and throw an interception against Bucknell, I won't worry. I'll just get them on the next play."
Taylor said yesterday's decision did not mean that Jones would be the starter for the rest of the season. Taylor said he hoped to give all three quarterbacks adequate playing time.
"We are in the fortunate situation of having three very fine quarterbacks," said Taylor. "That's to our advantage because you can surprise the defense. They won't know who to expect. We don't have to have one quarterback."
Nichols, who holds or shares nine Howard records and finished as the team's top rusher last year with 534 yards, said he does not resent Taylor's decision and is confident he can win his spot back. In the meantime, Nichols has tried to help Jones prepare for Bucknell.
"I feel I can get it back. If I didn't, then I wouldn't be who I am," said Nichols. "I told (Kenny) to go out and play his game and to relax. But I can't really tell him what to do on the field. That's up to him."