Travis Howard has been through a lot at Ohio State; there's an understatement for you. When he arrived out of Dr. Krop High School in Miami, it was 2008, Jim Tressel was the football coach, coming off of a second straight national title game pasting at the hands of a more talented SEC outfit. Suddenly, the power running offenses of the Big Ten weren't enough to bash through SEC defenses, and the fabled "SEC speed" was too much for the rugged defensive lines of the Midwest.
Put simply, Travis Howard was supposed to help alleviate some of the latter issues for the Ohio State defense, and supposed to be the future, prototypical defensive back that Ohio State would need to begin building their teams around. And for the most part, Howard accomplished a very high percentage of that goal while he was with the Buckeyes.
The phrase "shutdown corner" gets lofted around a lot, and it is a title that was given to Howard as he went from reserve defensive back and special teamer in his first three years in Columbus, to starting cornerback in his redshirt junior year, to All Big Ten player in his redshirt senior year as part of Ohio State's undefeated 2012 season, the first under coach Urban Meyer.
Howard showed impressive speed and skill at the cornerback position, especially in his final two years at Ohio State. His stats aren't too gaudy over those last two years: 81 total tackles, 11 passes defended, and six interceptions. But that's the issue with being a good cornerback - they don't throw to your side when you're that good. How exemplified that for a great many plays in scarlet and gray.
But Howard does have a few negatives that bear mention. On some occasions, he would often get caught over-covering, often leading to receivers more open than they should be, and long gains on big downs. For as many times as a Buckeye fan would yell "Whoooo Travis Howard" there would always be a few "Booooo Travis Howard" calls mixed in.
As an NFL prospect, Howard comes in at 6'1" and 200 lbs, and his wingspan was one of the more impressive things to NFL scouts. Howard has an undeniable nose for the ball, something that has paid off with his interceptions, but has cost him and the Buckeyes at times due to receivers getting an extra step. That's a big knock, considering NFL receivers typically aren't of the same ilk as walk-ons at Purdue. But to Howard's credit, he's smartened up considerably from his first few years as a Buckeye, and scouts like the learning factor.
Can Howard start in the NFL? Probably not. He lacks to quickness to be a true shutdown cornerback on Sundays, and most scouts think his trim build won't allow him to fix that in his pro career. But he has the hands and the ability to certainly contribute on special teams and as a reserve corner. The NFL says his pro comparison is Cortez Allen, which is fair, if not a bit too optimistic. But if he lives up to that comparison, he's going to be a very valuable third or fourth round pick to an NFL general manager.