The battle to be the new starting quarterback at Southern Miss likely won’t be settled until late this week.
USM head coach Jay Hopson said Monday that he has yet to settle on a starter between redshirt junior Kwadra Griggs and sophomore Keon Howard, but suggested that both players will likely take the field on Saturday.
“I think both will play,” Hopson said. “If you’re hot, you’re hot. We’ll see how it goes.”
USM hosts Kentucky at 3 p.m. on Saturday in the season opener in Hattiesburg and there will be a new starting quarterback at USM for the first time since early in the 2013 campaign. Nick Mullens, who holds nearly every passing record in program history, was a four-year starter for the Golden Eagles.
USM offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson was reluctant to commit to two quarterbacks playing Saturday.
“We’re going to see how the game goes,” Dawson said. “I’m not going to sit here and make any statements about we’re playing two, we’re playing three or what not. We’re going to do what it takes to win the game and move the football.”
Although it seems unlikely, Dawson also didn’t rule out the possibility of true freshman Marcelo Rodriguez seeing snaps.
“We played three last year. I’m not a psychic,” Dawson said. “All I know is what we did last year. I’ll put it this way – He’s going to be ready. I’ve told him many times that he’s not a freshman anymore. He proved that over the course of camp. Is he talented enough to play in games right now? In a perfect world, I would hope to not find out.”
Griggs appeared to have an edge on Howard for the starting job leaving spring practice and little has indicated that has changed during fall camp.
However, Griggs is the only quarterback to have missed significant time during in fall practice due to a banged up finger.
Dawson was encouraged by how Griggs practiced after missing four practices with the injury.
“He did probably better than I thought he’d do,” he said. “You miss some days and reps are so crucial. When you’re battling two guys, you’re trying to split reps. You’re trying to get Marcelo some reps. There’s a high price on those reps. He missed some a few days there, but I thought when he did start taking reps again I was pleased with his level of play.”
While the remnants of Hurricane Harvey may push wet weather into Mississippi this week, the storm’s impact has already hit close to home for one Golden Eagle – redshirt senior defensive back Kelsey Douglas.
He is a native of a suburb of Houston – Missouri City, Texas.
“Everything is good,” Douglas said Monday. “As far as my neighborhood and where my family is, they’re actually OK. They just can’t really go anywhere because the surrounding area is flooded pretty badly. I talked to my mom this morning and she was able to go to the grocery store and get food and stuff. I’ve just got to keep calling, staying in touch. They seem like they’re OK.”
There were few surprises when USM released its depth chart for the season opener.
Junior nose tackle Delmond Landry, who is listed at 6-foot-4, 305 pounds, is named among the four starting defensive linemen. He transferred in from Southwest Mississippi Community College.
His backup is sophomore DeMarrio Smith.
Junior LaDarius Harris (6-2, 259) is listed first string at defensive end after playing exclusively defensive tackle the last two seasons. Redshirt senior Xavier Thigpen is listed behind him.
Senior Sherrod Ruff beat out redshirt junior Jeremy Sangster at middle linebacker.
Sangster is the bigger linebacker at 6-foot, 233 pounds, but Ruff (5-10, 215) is the quicker option.
USM defensive coordinator pointed to Ruff’s grasp of the defense as the reason he will get the nod Saturday.
“His knowledge of the defense, being a good communicator,” USM defensive coordinator Tony Pecoraro. “It’s him being a leader, knowing the defense. He’s done a good job in camp.”
Who: Southern Miss vs. Kentucky
When: 3 p.m., Saturday
Where: Roberts Stadium, Hattiesburg
TV: CBS Sports Network