Freshman quarterback Keon Howard wasn’t supposed to touch the field this year at Southern Miss, but plans to give the former Laurel star a redshirt ended when senior starter Nick Mullens and his backup, redshirt junior Parker Adamson, both went down with injuries.
Howard was thrust into a tough ordeal and his inexperience became every bit as obvious as his tremendous potential. For every play that he flashed big time talent, he’d soon match it with a mistake.
He played in three games during the regular season, starting two. He completed 44 percent of his passes for 365 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions. He was at his best when running with the ball, carrying 44 times for 150 yards and two touchdowns.
“We tried to redshirt Keon,” USM coach Jay Hopson said. “At the beginning of the season, I had my fingers crossed that Nick wouldn’t get hurt.
“When we pulled the shirt off Keon what I found out was here’s a young man that can that can go out and throw for 300 and run for 100. The tool set is there. I think it’s a good thing he got those snaps and it will be beneficial.”
While Howard may be the future at quarterback for USM, it’s no sure thing that he’ll be the starter in 2017.
With Mullens set to bring his impressive career to a close on Dec. 17 against Louisiana-Lafayette in the New Orleans Bowl, this upcoming spring practice will prove crucial in finding his replacement.
Adamson showed promise in limited time off the bench in four games this season, completing 19 of 39 passes for 365 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. The 6-foot-4, 214-pound Oxford native also showed that he may be a better runner than anticipated, carrying 13 times for 60 yards and a touchdown.
While Howard and Adamson will be in the mix entering the spring, the other options are unclear.
Kwadra Griggs, a transfer from Itawamba Community College, had an edge on Adamson for the No. 2 spot leaving spring practice, but the junior turned up ineligible in the fall. It remains to be seen where he will fit in going forward.
The USM staff has recently offered multiple junior college quarterbacks, a sign that Hopson and company aren’t comfortable with the options headed into the spring.
“We’ve got to sign some quarterbacks,” Hopson said. “That’s the reality of it. That’s where we are.”
Southern Miss has one high school quarterback committed in Miami prospect Marcelo Rodriguez, a player who showed up strong at a summer camp in Hattiesburg and earned a scholarship offer. The 6-foot-3, 196-pound Rodriguez led Columbus High School to a 7-5 record this season.
Areas of need
Quarterback is far from the lone area that the staff has to bolster through recruiting. The defensive line is need of depth and Southwest Mississippi Community College defensive tackle Delmond Landry could prove to be a key addition there.
The Donaldsville (Louisiana) Chief reported Tuesday that the 6-foot-4, 289-pound Landry committed to the Golden Eagles. Landry, who had 44 tackles in nine games this year, also holds offers from Conference USA rivals Texas-San Antonio and Western Kentucky.
Former Long Beach receiver Trevor Terry, who spent this past season at Jones County Junior College, is expected to sign with USM on Wednesday and will have three years of eligibility.
When the Dec. 14 date arrives for junior college players to sign, Hopson isn’t completely sure how many will ink with the Golden Eagles. He doesn’t want to rely heavily on junior college talent, but he may not have much choice in 2017.
“I’d say anywhere from about two to five,” Hopson said of the number of junior college players he may sign. “I’m really a high school guy by nature, but there are certain spots we have feed into with some (junior college players). Eventually, you want to get to signing just high schools and signing (junior college players) at a specific need.”
Who: Southern Miss vs. Louisiana-Lafayette
When: 8 p.m., Dec. 17
Where: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans