Howard's offense will see a new but familiar face when football practice opens Friday. Former Washington Redskin Alvin Harper has joined the coaching staff as part-time wide receivers coach.

Harper, 37, replaces former Howard wide receiver Gary "Flea" Harrell as the team's receivers coach. Harrell left to take a coaching position at Texas Southern. Howard Coach Ray Petty said Harper would work from August through May.

"He's a golfer, so he has to have his golf time," Petty said.

Harper has never coached but played wide receiver for eight seasons in the NFL, most recently playing two games for the Dallas Cowboys in 1999. Harper played in 12 games for the Redskins in 1997, his last full season in the NFL. A first-round pick of the Cowboys from Tennessee in 1991, Harper's best season was in 1994, when he caught 33 passes for 821 yards and eight touchdowns.

"He's got a lot of experience," Petty said. "He's going to be able to teach the receivers a lot as far as technique, running routes and catching the ball."

Harper, who lives in Mitchellville, will certainly have his hands full. Howard, which finished 4-7 overall and 2-5 in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference last season, lost its top five wide receivers. Those players accounted for 100 of the team's 131 receptions last season. Five of the team's seven returning receivers are sophomores; Jarahn Williams of Miami is the top returning wide receiver. He had three catches in 2003.

"I didn't think I was going to like coaching at first because I know how players are," Harper said. "They can be pretty hardheaded. But I love it now. I really enjoy working with the players and helping them get better."

-- Mark Schlabach