Fred Dean, the new offensive line coach at Howard, is the former Washington Redskins guard, not the NFL defensive lineman. (Published 8/21/90)

One year ago, Howard quarterback Donald Carr began preseason practice eager to be the main cog in new coach Steve Wilson's pro-style offense, which would accent the pass.

By midseason, however, the offense was having problems and Wilson reluctantly benched Carr in favor of George Humes, who had been a wide receiver. The pair alternated the remainder of the season as the Bison, on the strength of their defense that ranked No. 1 in Division I-AA, finished a surprising 8-3.

This season Carr again starts as Howard's top quarterback, and he and Wilson are confident the results will be much different from a six-game stretch of last season during which Howard averaged only 9.8 points.

"Last year, to these kids, this offense was like someone who only speaks Spanish going to Russia," said Wilson, who made a radical switch from previous coach Willie Jeffries' dive-option design. "Mouths were moving, but no one understood what was being said."

Carr completed only 43.2 percent of his passes for five touchdowns and six interceptions, although he was the team's second-leading rusher with 355 yards and five touchdowns, including a 45-yard touchdown that helped Howard to a 6-0 upset of Grambling.

Wilson did not like benching Carr but felt it was necessary.

"I think he put too much pressure on himself," said Wilson. "He made a couple of big plays, which demonstrates he has the athletic ability. Eventually, he lost all confidence, but I think {the benching} made him hungry."

Carr said he did not brood. He learned.

"As the season wore on, I began to understand my mistakes," said Carr, a 5-foot-11, 185-pound senior who before had played in only option offenses. "When George was playing, I saw the things he did right and the things he did wrong that I had been doing."

Carr admitted that the new offense was difficult for many players to comprehend for much of the season.

"Being inexperienced at it and trying to feel our way, we were always relying on the big play," he said. "And it always seemed when we needed it, we messed up."

Humes asked to be moved back to receiver this year, but Carr will find solid competition behind him. Freshman Chris Dubose (6-3, 175) has been one of the pleasant surprises in early practices. Freshman Jimmy Wilkins (6-3, 190) of Kennedy can be a significant contributor, said Wilson, once the Howard staff reworks his throwing mechanics.

Other aspects of the Bison offense should be improved. Less than a week into practice, Gary Harrell, a 5-7 freshman speedster from Miami, has been so impressive that it may be hard to keep him out of the lineup. If nothing else, he will help Howard's weakest point of last season -- returning punts.

Carr reflects what many of Howard's offensive players said after a year of working with Wilson's offense.

"This year, I am confident in the system," said Carr. "Last year, we were always looking for something special. This year, we can be more conservative and more consistent. We hope we will not put so much pressure on our defense this year."

Bison Notes: Cedric Rawls, who was the all-MEAC punter last year, twisted his left (nonkicking) knee in practice this week. He believes the injury will be healed before the Sept. 2 opener against Southern at the Los Angeles Coliseum. As he did last fall, Rawls also will play on Howard's soccer team. . . . Last year's defensive coordinator, Charlie West, left to accept a job in the Canadian Football League. Former Denver Bronco Rubin Carter will serve as defensive coordinator and defensive line coach. . . . Wilson continued to bring in assistants with NFL experience. New to the staff this year are former 49ers defensive end Fred Dean, who will coach the offensive line, and former Broncos safety Jeremiah Castille, who will coach defensive backs. . . . Carter ran the offseason weight program. His prize pupil had to be 6-2 senior center Paul Ramseur, now a lean 270 pounds after weighing in at 320 last year.