- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 29, 2002

For the Howard Bison this season, the defense will never rest.
The offense won't either. In fact, if first-year coach Ray Petty has anything to say about it, no Howard player will take it easy.
Since Petty took the job in late January, he has been all business. And players returning from last season's 2-9 team say his approach is just what they need to rebound this season.
"He's not settling for, 'You guys were bad last year; you're going to be bad this year,'" senior offensive tackle Marques Ogden said. "He's got a whole new focus: 'You're either going to do this right or get out. It's my way or the highway.'"
The Bison especially on defense will go with his way, considering last year's results. Under coach Steve Wilson, Howard had an exciting pass-oriented attack but also one that allowed turnovers and kept the defense on the field too long. Among last season's indignities: surrendering 53 points to Florida A&M; and 76 to N.C. A&T.; The Bison finished 112th out of 123 Division I-AA teams in points allowed.
"Last year we'd play the first half and get tired in the second after playing 90 snaps a game," said linebacker Tracy White, a consensus first-team preseason All-American. "We'd get worn down."
That won't happen this year. For the first time in school history, Howard hired a strength coach for all its sports, Keith Comeforo, but did so in large part because Petty requested it during the interview process. Previously, Howard's coaches instructed the team on weightlifting.
That's just one change. Petty has put a premium on being on time, whether it's for class, tutoring sessions or meetings. Before he arrived, study halls were said to be mandatory, but the policy was never enforced; now it is. He also has emphasized players being responsible for themselves and their teammates academically and socially.
"Just by him making us accept responsibility for ourselves and the people on this team, that separates us," junior wide receiver Shaun Miller said. "And that's where it opens up to football because he cares for you as a person before you even get to the football field."
Players said Petty has helped them grow closer as a team, but they're doing their part, too. Old traditions that had gone ignored in recent years like cutting the freshmen's hair early in summer camp and making them sing together in the school cafeteria have been rekindled.
Petty has had help instituting his policies from the seniors, some of whom he helped recruit when he was last at Howard as an assistant in 1999, his eighth season there before becoming defensive coordinator at Norfolk State in 2000 and 2001.
Some returning players couldn't hack it with the new regime nine, to be exact, including preseason All-American defensive lineman Damian Walker and starting linebacker Mike Sanders but overall the players have welcomed him and his new attitude. They know as long as they fulfill their responsibilities on the field and in the classroom, they won't hear it from him.
But on the field is where the Bison want to make their mark. Last season's struggles are still fresh in players' minds, as is the preseason prediction of MEAC coaches and sports information directors that Howard will finish seventh one place better than last season.
Petty and his players understand the logic for the predictions but aren't going to settle for them.
"The proof is there the last two years, Howard finished near the bottom. So we have to anticipate that we're going to start somewhere near the bottom," Petty said. "Our motivation is move from the bottom three to the top three and finally be No.1."

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