By: Aman Kidwai
Mike London, the head coach of the Howard Bison football team, revived this program in 2017. Now, the team is looking to improve in 2018.
The Bison posted a 7-4 record in 2017, a remarkable five-win improvement from 2016. They also more than doubled their points per game (from 13.5 to 29.9), saw a major increase in yards per play (4.1 to 6.3), and nearly halved their points allowed.
They also collected a season-opening win against UNLV, which made headlines because it was the largest upset by point spread in college football history. “Last year was amazing,” redshirt senior offensive lineman James Holmon said.
You can’t help but wonder how London will follow up that brilliant debut, especially since there are more expectations for 2018. Nine Bison players earned All-MEAC preseason honors. They aren’t surprising anyone this year.
Luckily, many key contributors are returning, including quarterback Caylin Newton, Cam Newton’s younger brother. But Caylin doesn’t brag about his NFL ties. Instead, the Atlanta native’s strong work ethic helped him earn his teammates’ respect.
“He just came in and worked for it, and he never stopped,” offensive coordinator Brennan Marion said, echoing a sentiment shared by London and Holmon.
As a true freshman last year, Caylin won the starting quarterback job. He threw for 2,432 yards, 13 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions. He also wreaked havoc with his legs, running for 937 yards and an eye-popping 12 touchdowns.
“It was a good year for a freshman,” he said. “But if I have that same kind of year again, it’ll be a disappointment.” Caylin will have some continuity and a bevy of playmakers to work with this season.
Unfortunately, the Bison are replacing their top two running backs. But Jequez Ezzard and Kyle Anthony, the top receivers from 2017, will return this season. Ezzard hauled in 34 passes for a team-high 895 yards and six touchdowns in 2017. Anthony finished with 40 receptions for 764 yards and five touchdowns.
And since Howard’s recruiting improved considerably, a few emerging underclassmen will be able to contribute. London and his staff have been able to recruit at a higher level than ever before. It’s paying immediate dividends.
“We’ve been able to pull in ‘three-star’ caliber players and guys who had FBS and major FCS offers and interest,” London said. With fresh talent joining the team, Marion will continue breathing more life into this offense.
Marion, a former All-Conference USA receiver at Tulsa, joined London’s staff last season. He is doing a masterful job of galvanizing this offense by getting his playmakers more involved.
“They used to feature their offense around one player,” Marion said. “I like to feature multiple players and take advantage of the best matchups.”
Howard is poised to make noise in 2018 and beyond. The Bison open this season with winnable FBS games on the road against Ohio and Kent State. And they should contend for the MEAC title.
“The offense is attractive, which certainly helps from a recruiting perspective,” Marion shared. “And what we’re doing here with Coach London, at an incredible academic institution in the heart of Washington DC, there’s a lot to like here.”