Southern Miss

Southern Miss football will be without its top offensive player to begin 2019 season

Southern Miss wide receiver Quez Watkins gets four touchdowns against Jackson State

Southern Miss wide receiver Quez Watkins scored four touchdowns against Jackson State in a 55-7 win. Watkins had eight catches for 138 yards and three touchdowns and a 81-yard punt return for a touchdown.
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Southern Miss wide receiver Quez Watkins scored four touchdowns against Jackson State in a 55-7 win. Watkins had eight catches for 138 yards and three touchdowns and a 81-yard punt return for a touchdown.

The Southern Miss football team will be without All-Conference USA receiver Quez Watkins for the first two games of the 2019 season, head coach Jay Hopson confirmed in Monday’s press conference.

Watkins tweeted on Sunday that he “won’t spin until Sept. 14.”

Hopson acknowledged Monday that Watkins “will be held out for the first two games,” but he declined to explain why.

That means that Watkins will miss out on Saturday’s 6 p.m. season opener against Alcorn State in Hattiesburg and the Sept. 7 game at Mississippi State. His first game back would be the Sept. 14 contest at Troy.

As a redshirt sophomore in 2018, Watkins had 72 receptions for 889 yards and nine touchdowns.

Watkins sat out the spring semester at USM to attend a junior college so he could re-gain academic eligibility, and he was a full participant in fall camp.

Jaylond Adams has received plenty of first-string snaps during camp in Watkins’ place and may be the man who replaces him in the lineup for Saturday’s opener against Alcorn State.

Adams is a speedy receiver who has caught most of his passes near the line of scrimmage and has been involved in the ground game. Seniors Trevor Terry and Neil McLaurin are also solid options at outside receiver after putting in excellent springs.

“I’m extremely, extremely impressed with our receiving corps,” Hopson said. “Those guys have really done a great job and they’re a bunch of competitors. I think we’re deep at that spot. Again, I’m excited about that position. There’s a lot of guys that go to work every day at that position, so it’s been stiff competition. We’re a team that can play a lot of players at that spot.”

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New USM offensive coordinator Buster Faulkner has prepared for the absence of Watkins.

“I think the biggest thing is we went through all spring ball and he wasn’t out there with us,” he said. “We’ve got great leadership out of the room in Jordan Mitchell. I think he’s a guy who took a lot of ownership in bringing along all the young guys. Not having (Watkins) and the kind of guy he is always hurts. We’re kind of the next man up mentality. We need everybody in the room for us to successful. We’ve prepared for him not being there. Guys like Jordan Mitchell, Tim Jones, De’Michael Harris, Jaylond Adams, Trevor Terry — I feel good about those guys have come along and picked up the offense.”

Adams, Jones and Mitchell were listed as USM’s first-string receivers on the USM depth chart, which was released on Monday.

Depth chart glance

Hopson acknowledged that redshirt junior Jack Abraham will be his starting quarterback for Saturday’s game.

Sophomore Tate Whatley had a strong spring and Hopson left the door open to going with the Florida native to start fall camp, but Abraham has again showed that can be the steady hand behind center.

“It’s been a fun battle to watch and we definitely have fans for both quarterbacks,” Hopson said. “Jack had a good last year and Tate (Whatley) did too when he came in. It’s not like Jack ever did anything to lose the job, but we felt like through spring that Tate had a really good spring and he deserved an opportunity. We leave camp feeling like we have two really good quarterbacks that are ready to go. Jack’s the starting quarterback, but we understand we have a really good football player in Tate. We’ve got a plan for Tate. We’re excited to have those two guys leading our football team.”

Most first-string spots appear to be solidified headed into Saturday’s game, but one position on the offensive line may see a two-player rotation early in the season.

Junior Tanner Hawthorne is listed as the starting right tackle, but Faulkner said Monday that Khalique Washington should also see time at the position.


Hopson announced Saturday that freshman Andrew Stein will handle the place-kicking duties against Alcorn State on Saturday after beating out junior college transfer Ryan Schemtob in fall camp.

Steign made 18 of 32 field goals at Northshore High School in Slidell over the last two seasons.

Junior Briggs Bourgeois was on track to be USM’s kicker this season, but he suffered an unspecified injury in the spring and is unavailable. Hopson declined to say Monday if his injury was season-ending.

Redshirt junior Zac Everett is listed as USM’s first-string starter after averaging 39.3 yards a punt last season.

Patrick Magee is a sports writer who has covered South Mississippi for much of the last two decades. From Southern Miss to high schools, he stays on top of it all.