Things are looking up for Penn State senior center Howle
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UNIVERSITY PARK — Ty Howle is taller than only one player on Penn State's offensive two-deep roster, and he looks up anywhere from 3 to 7 inches at teammates in position meetings for offensive linemen.
The fifth-year center, though, doesn't suffer from short-man syndrome — even if his coach refers to him as “nasty.”
“He's a funny guy,” tackle Garry Gilliam said. “He definitely keeps the offensive line together.”
Howle's switch is flipped when he walks onto the field. The son of a high school football coach, the 293-pounder — listed at 6-foot — has the look of a 22-year-old you'd like to go fishing with.
Howle grinned when he took the podium during Penn State's weekly news conference Tuesday at Beaver Stadium. He knew what he would be asked; — sure enough, the first reporter wanted to know why Nittany Lions coach Bill O'Brien said he was “a nasty guy on the football field.”
Howle chuckled. “(O'Brien) told me I probably was going to get that question,” he said.
“I think it's the way I play the game. I really love the game of football. It's something that's always been fun and been good to me. I just try to get after it every play, play hard and really enjoy it, hustling.”
Howle entered the season with the fewest career starts among Penn State's starting offensive linemen. He and Gilliam were the lone new starters (Gilliam formerly was a tight end) on a line that was a team strength last season and figured to get better in 2013.
Howle replaced two-year starter Matt Stankiewitch, who was one of the final cuts by the New England Patriots last week. After three seasons in which he was a long snapper, Howle's time has come — even as a relatively new offensive starter.
“He's one of the veterans on the line and a great leader,” Gilliam said. “He makes a lot of our calls and keeps us on the same page. He's an insanely strong person in the weight room, and his short height gives him an advantage.”
Howle grew up admiring Indianapolis Colts center Jeff Saturday. When Howle began to be recruited by Penn State, he found another role model in A.Q. Shipley. Shipley, a Moon native, was awarded the Rimington Trophy, given annually to the best center in college football, as a senior in 2008.
Shipley, now with the Baltimore Ravens, is 6-1; Saturday, who retired after last season, is 6-2.
“Those two guys are kind of like me — shorter guys with natural leverage,” Howle said. “Two really, really good centers. Guys I kind of look up to and model my game after.”
Like O'Brien and others along the offensive line, Howle was satisfied with the play of the unit in a win against Syracuse last week. The numbers — 1.5 yards per rush, three sacks — weren't pretty.
“The stats don't tell the whole side of the running game,” Howle said. “A lot of times there were five, six, seven guys right there.”
An opportunity to build continuity exists against Eastern Michigan in the Lions' home opener at noon Saturday. Expect Howle to play, as O'Brien says he does, “tough, smart, nasty.” Even against a Mid-American Conference opponent, Howle will have to deal with defensive tackles who are taller and almost the same weight as him.
“Ty definitely knows how to get down in the trenches,” receiver Matt Zanellato said. “He knows how to hold his own with big defensive linemen and has really got a lot of grit to him.”
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