Southern Miss

The Southern Miss football team has suspended its starting quarterback

Southern Miss quarterback Kwadra Griggs talks to offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson during the third quarter of a game against Kentucky at Roberts Stadium in Hattiesburg on Sept. 2.
Southern Miss quarterback Kwadra Griggs talks to offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson during the third quarter of a game against Kentucky at Roberts Stadium in Hattiesburg on Sept. 2. File

The Southern Miss football team ended spring practice with a crowded situation at quarterback, but that’s no longer the case early in fall camp.

USM announced Saturday morning that redshirt senior Kwadra Griggs, the team’s returning starter at quarterback, has been suspended indefinitely “pending the resolution of a student conduct matter.”

Southern Miss held its Media Day on Saturday afternoon, but coaches were reluctant to explain why Griggs was suddenly sidelined.

USM offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson, who doubles as the team’s quarterbacks coach, now has three options to choose from after Griggs’ suspension and Keon Howard’s transfer to Tulane — sophomore Jack Abraham, redshirt freshman Marcelo Rodriguez and freshman Tate Whatley.

“We went from having a lot … but I do think the guys taking reps right now, I’m fortunate they’re all talented guys,” Dawson said. “All I can do is go out there with the people I’ve got.”

USM head coach Jay Hopson seemed close to declaring Abraham as the starter for the Sept. 1 season opener against Jackson State.

“Right now, Jack looks like he’s moving to the top,” Hopson said. “I thought he had a good day today. He made some good throws. I thought he ran the offense well.”

Hopson didn’t answer questions that sought more details on Griggs’ situation.

“He’s one of my sons and I love him to death,” he said. “That’s all I’m going to say about that. I love the kid.”

Dawson spoke with his other quarterbacks Saturday, but he had no big motivational speech waiting on them.

“I simply told them, ‘Look, everybody’s got a job to do,’” he said. “We’ve got to do our job and that’s it. There’s nothing really to talk about.”

Griggs, who battled through injuries for much of the 2017 season, completed 55.8 percent of his passes for 1,879 yards, 16 touchdowns and two interceptions as USM finished 8-5 last year.

This is not the first time that Griggs has been prevented from playing or practicing due to a matter away from the field. He was ruled academically ineligible for the 2016 season after joining the team that spring.

Howard announced earlier this month that he was transferring to Tulane after showing promise in six starts at USM in 2017. He played in nine games total, completing 56.5 percent of his passes for 1,199 yards, eight touchdowns and five interceptions.

With Howard’s departure, the quarterback battle seemed to narrow to Griggs and Abraham. The two players were in a tight battle through the first seven practices of fall camp.

During Saturday morning’s scrimmage, it was Abraham taking snaps with the first team.

Abraham is a 6-foot, 204-pound transfer from Northwest Mississippi Community College. He threw for 2,949 yards, 23 touchdowns and eight interceptions last year at NWCC after spending one year at Louisiana Tech.

“I think he’s had a good camp,” Dawson said. “I thought he was pretty efficient (in the scrimmage). He missed on a couple of things, but he took care of the ball. The ball typically goes to the right place. He’s a smart kid.”

Abraham is considered the most accurate passer of the bunch, but he’s also a good enough athlete that he can take off with the ball when necessary.

“The thing I like about him is he’s pretty protective of the ball,” Dawson said. “It’s got to be there. In that case, I’ll call it a lot more. I think that’s a good thing.”

Rodriguez has the strongest arm of the group, but he’s still adjusting to USM’s spread offense after operating under center in high school at Miami.

“I’m just putting the ball in play, not turning the ball over,” Rodriguez said Saturday. “I’m just trying to be efficient and put the ball in play.”