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February 25, 2012O.J. Howard is no stranger to the Auburn campus. Howard visited multiple times for home games last fall and returned on Saturday for the Tigers' Junior Day.
Howard spoke with head coach Gene Chizik and offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler, and is keeping his options open despite a commitment to Alabama.
"It was probably one of the best visits I've had here," said Howard. "I talked to coach Chizik for the first time in-depth, my parents had some questions answered, it was an overall good visit.
"I've been here a lot, you have to keep your options open. What if someone happened with my commitment to Alabama and I had nobody else to go to?"
Howard, now 6-foot-5, 235-pounds, met extensively with Loeffler about the direction of the Tigers' offense and how the tight-end would be utilized. He was excited about what he heard.
"The best part was sitting down with coach Loeffler for the first time. He's a great guy, he's funny, I love him. He's a down to earth guy that knows a lot about offense," Howard said. "All he talks about is football, he said he loves to use the tight end so I'm going to check that out this upcoming year. He's so creative and he comes up with plays and just puts your name in it like how it would be if you were here."
The nation's No. 35 overall prospect sees an innovative offense in the future where mismatches will be utilized, and Howard believes tight-end his where his future at the next level will be.
"The way he's got it showing looks amazing. It looks fun," said Howard.
A recent hot topic in the world of recruiting has been the emergence of four-year scholarships.
Auburn and Florida both made the decision to extend four-year scholarships starting with the 2012 signing class. Many schools like Alabama, Tennessee, Texas A&M, and the entire Big 12 conference recently voted against the emergence of four-year scholarships.
Howard and coach Chizik spoke about Auburn's philosophy toward a four-year commitment and Howard is beginning to understand more about the concept.
"He was saying they gave out four-year offers this year and you never know where you will be," said Howard. "The four-year is guaranteed, but some schools offer a one-year and it's year-by-year. I guess they could cut you if you don't do so good your first year. But the four-year scholarship guarantees you all the way through. I'd rather get a four-year scholarship than a one-year. That's what I like about it."
Howard said he hasn't spoken with Alabama about whether his scholarship would be one-year or four-year, but plans to find out on his next visit to Tuscaloosa.
Four-year scholarships hasn't been the only thing on Howard's mind either. Howard watched as Vigor High School's Darius Philon was forced to switch his commitment from Alabama to Arkansas on signing day after the Crimson Tide ran out of room for the long-time pledge.
Philon wasn't alone, as Georgia running back Justin Taylor, also a long-time Alabama commitment, was offered the option to greyshirt. Taylor instead signed with Kentucky.
"I saw that, I don't know what really happened with it, but I looked at it and wondered could it happen with me?" Howard said. "It probably could, it probably couldn't, but I still take everything like that into consideration."
Howard plans visits to an emerging school of interest in Florida State soon, and possibly Mississippi State, while remaining a firm Alabama commitment.
"I'm still committed to Alabama, but you have to keep your options open," Howard said. "You never know what might happen one day. Auburn is an option for me, everybody is."