For the first time in five years we have a new No. 93. Kawann Short took the jersey in the fall of 2008, redshirted, then became a staple at defensive tackle before heading off to the NFL in 2013. That left the No. 93 jersey open, and freshman Ra'Zahn Howard filled in surprisingly well there last season.
Ra'Zahn Howard - So.
Dawsonville, GA (Atlanta Sports Academy)
6'4, 315 pounds
2014 Projection: Starter at Defensive Tackle
Howard has been all over the place in his career. As a senior he was a Third-Team all-state selection in New Jersey, where he won a state championship with Asbury Park. He was quite the badass with 68 tackles, 31 for loss, and 12 sacks. His junior he played at Winslow Township HS in New jersey and had 57 tackles and 10 sacks. His final year before Purdue was spent at a prep school: the Atlanta Sports Academy.
That led to quite a bit of seasoning before he arrived at Purdue, and it showed as he could not keep his redshirt on last season. He was playing regular minutes by midseason and had four tackles with a sack plus two pass breakups. This offseason his stock went even higher:
Last month, Head Coach Darrell Hazell had called Howard "the most exciting player on our team right now." Howard's praise from his coaches and teammates has also extended to awards. A few weeks after Coach Hazell's praise, Howard was named the defensive recipient team's annual Newcomer Award, given to the player who has made the most progress in his first spring practice.
If Purdue is going to turn things around quickly in 2014 Howard is one of several players that is expected to be in the middle of that turnaround. If he wins the starting job, as some expect, we're looking at a three-year starter that should make a great difference by the time he is done.