The player widely considered Mississippi's best quarterback in the class of 2016 has verbally committed to play football at Southern Miss.
Laurel quarterback Keon Howard's commitment marks the first big commitment for new USM head football coach Jay Hopson, who was hired late Saturday.
Howard told the Sun Herald Tuesday night that he will sign with the Golden Eagles on National Signing Day on Wednesday.
“It's a great fit for me,” Howard said. “The program is on a great rise right now in addition to getting a new head coach. It's a great fit for me and my future.”
Howard threw for 3,317 yards, 43 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in 2015. The dual-threat quarterback also rushed 98 times for 456 yards and three scores.
Howard, who was verbally committed to Memphis until Sunday night, also received scholarship offers from Louisville, Minnesota, Ole Miss and Mississippi State.
The 6-foot-1, 205-pound Hopson appears to have made a quick impression on Howard as the new USM head coach.
“He's a down to earth man,” Howard said. “He cares about you on and off the field. He's going to make you a better man.”
Howard's family will also have a chance to make the short 30-mile drive to Hattiesburg to watch him play college football for the Golden Eagles.
“That played a big part in my recruitment,” Howard said.
Laurel coach Todd Breland believes Howard will land in the right situation at USM.
“I think they're perfect for each other,” Breland said. “There's so much excitement, energy right now in Hattiesburg. He brings a local guy to that position so he's going to create more buzz. He'll have the opportunity to come down there, learn the system and not be in a hurry to play. He will be an outstanding student-athlete.”
Breland, who said Hopson "closed the deal" on Howard, sees a unique skill set in his quarterback.
“I've coached a lot of quarterbacks, but he's the most complete package at the position,” Breland said. “He's got size, arm strength. I've often referred to him as a Brett Favre type player. He's got a big arm on his shoulder. He studies the game, understands the game. He'll be the first player on the practice field and the last one off.”