His right knee in a bulky brace, Loren Howard hobbled onto Bill Kajikawa Field on Sunday night, already looking forward to when he can run on it wearing maroon and gold.
The defensive end, off successful right knee surgery and a recent transfer from Northwestern, will attend his first class at Arizona State today. He will rehabilitate this fall and have one year of eligibility remaining.
"It’s a new beginning, a new family," said Howard, a 6-foot-4, 280-pound Saguaro High product. "It’s exciting. I feel wanted here and accepted, and I think it’s going to be a good deal for me."
Howard, who was limited to six games in 2004 because of a preseason left ankle injury, underwent surgery last week to relieve nagging tendinitis. He was an honorable mention All-Big Ten selection two years ago.
"Leading up to the Northwestern game last year, I was so impressed with him on film," Sun Devils coach Dirk Koetter said. "And after his injury last year, I saw him on television at the end of the year and couldn’t believe that he came back.
"If he’s healthy, Loren would be one of the best defensive linemen in the country this year."
Howard, who will wear his brace for a month, does not know if he will be available for spring practice.
"One thing about this injury is that you can’t push it," Howard said. "It would get worse and worse. I’m not going to do anything until I’m released by the doctors."
ASU could have a stellar defensive line next fall, with Howard joining Saguaro teammate Kyle Caldwell and Tranell Morant, a highly regarded Florida transfer, at end. Jordan Hill will return at tackle, and Michael Marquardt, a transfer from Brigham Young who must sit out this year, will be ready.
Also, two blue-chip instate recruits, Jon Hargis of Red Mountain and Jermaine Williams of Phoenix Maryvale, have given oral commitments, as has Zach Niusulu of Barstow, Calif.
"We’ve struck gold on defensive linemen," Koetter said.
Cornell Canidate, who was limited during Camp Tontozona workouts because he is coming off a groin injury that required surgery, is now suffering from a sore hamstring that has him "out of the mix" in the Sun Devils’ tailback competition, Koetter said.
Meanwhile, Randy Hill, who had been held back because of knee surgery, looked better on Sunday and will see his workload increase.
"If we were playing a game today, our tailback depth chart would be Rudy (Burgess) first, Keegan Herring second and Randy third," Koetter said. "For Cornell, the main thing is getting healthy. When he does, then we’ll see if he can compete."
Other aches and pains:
• Linebacker Jamar Williams, who has been out with a leg injury, is expected back on Tuesday. The Sun Devils do not practice today because classes begin.
"I want to be in there and show everyone I am playing," Williams said. "I hate being out."
• Guard Stephen Berg, who had been kept from contact due to his coming off shoulder surgery, practiced with the first-team offense on Sunday.
"He was rusty," Koetter said. "He looked like he was on ice skates."
• Starting safety Josh Barrett and running back Preston Jones, both rehabilitating sore shoulders, were out of the orange (noncontact) jerseys on Sunday. Cornerback R.J. Oliver (quadriceps) and linebacker Beau Manutai practiced, but Caldwell (knee) sat out.
Koetter said Sunday’s practice was "sluggish," partly because of the distraction of school starting, but mostly because of the heat.
"We’re not at cool Camp Tontozona anymore," Koetter said. "It was like a furnace when we first came out here. I talked to Coach (Frank) Kush about it last week, and he said it takes a week to 10 days to get back adjusted to the heat." . . .
ASU will conduct walk-on tryouts today. Koetter said about 60 players requested the necessary paperwork to audition, but fewer than 25 have turned it in. . . .
Marquardt, who was an excused absence from Camp Tontozona because he was finishing summer school at BYU, joined the team on Sunday.