The Southern Miss football staff will give redshirt senior quarterback Kwadra Griggs a shot to take the field again soon, but the Greenwood native has to prove he is ready.
Griggs was reinstated to the team on Friday after the university lifted an indefinite suspension that was put in place on Aug. 11. The reason for his suspension, which was described as a “student conduct matter,” was never given.
USM head coach Jay Hopson is grateful to have Griggs back with the team ahead of Saturday’s 6 p.m. Conference USA opener against Rice.
“It’s just great news,” he said. “We’ve got to get him back going. It’s a process that’s been going on for about a month. We’ll watch him closely this week and see how he does, how he prepares.”
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Griggs completed 56.1 percent of his passes last year for 1,879 yards, 16 touchdowns and two interceptions as he played through injuries. He played in nine games and made six starts.
Friday’s practice was Griggs’ first in over a month, meaning he has plenty of work to do to get back into game shape. Hopson and offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said Monday that Griggs will receive plenty of reps this week in practice.
“It’s going to be up to him,” Hopson said. “We’ll see how he does this week, watch him close. We’ll give him reps, try to get him back in the groove. We’ll see how quickly he gets in.
“He’s not a genie where he can sit out a month and magically be ready to go tomorrow. We’ll see how he does. He’ll work hard and compete hard to get himself ready to roll. I think I’ll have a better idea Thursday.”
Redshirt sophomore Jack Abraham started the first two games of the season and gave reason to be optimistic about his future at the position. He has completed 71.2 percent of his passes for 620 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions.
His two interceptions and lost two fumbles were in a 21-20 loss to Louisiana-Monroe on Sept. 8, but the play of the offensive line and the lack of a ground game likely had more to do with the defeat than any mistakes that the Oxford native made at quarterback.
Offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said Abraham is still his first-string quarterback.
“He’s played well through two games,” Dawson said. “Has he made mistakes? Yes. But he’s played well, battled. When the (quarterback competition ended in August), it ended in a very weird way. I haven’t been in a situation like this before.
“Ultimately, we have to do what’s best for the team to win football games. As a group, we have to be in it together. Whoever is on the field, the others are going to support them 100 percent.”
Dawson, who was in contact with Griggs throughout the suspension, said Griggs has been watching film and doing work on his own, but that doesn’t necessarily make up for a month away from the team.
“When you’re going out every day and you’re (getting reps), you stay sharp,” Dawson said. “Your cardio level has to be at a certain level because of the tempo we like to play at. The connection between mind and body have to be there. You get that from reps. Your body gets used to making reads and throws.
“Mentally, he’s pretty sharp. Physically, we’ve got to see. If I had to guess, the connection would be a little off due to the time spent off. Kwadra is a very talented kid. We deal with kids that have certain skill sets that can catch up. With him, we’ll have to wait and see.”
Pine Belt Sports contributed to this report.