Every spring before football season, competitions are rampant among a plethora of position groups. From quarterback to inside linebacker, every spot is up for grabs — even if you’re a school-record setter.
This year is no different with competitions among the defensive line, receiver and the defensive back spots. But no other competition will have more spotlight than at quarterback.
Gone is Nick Mullens, starter for the majority of his four years in Hattiesburg, setting numerous records as an all-time passer in school history. Behind him sat two men, junior Kwadra Griggs and sophomore Keon Howard.
Howard, a 4-star recruit out of Laurel, Miss who planned on redshirting until Mullens was hurt late in the year, played in four games, starting two last year. Griggs came to Southern Miss by the way of Itawamba Community College but had to sit out last year due to academic reasons.
But this year, none of that matters.
“It feels good being back doing what I love to do and being with this team,” Griggs said. “They really guide me and help me. I love all those guys. Theres not just a single one that I get along with. Try and make them my blood brothers.”
In the first spring practice, both players split time with the first team, taking snaps under the direction of Offensive Coordinator Shannon Dawson. Howard worked with Dawson directly last year in his brief time on the field and he believes that their relationship can be a good one.
“We’ve been had a great relationship since I signed here,” Howard said. “Nothing really changed. He’s a great man. He’s a great father-figure rather than a coach. We talk about life more than X’s and O’s. He’s going to push us on and off the field.”
It always is not easy to have uncertainty at the quarterback position. It can split locker rooms when players feel that one is a better leader than the other. But, Griggs believes that whatever it takes to make Southern Miss better, he will do whatever it takes.
“There’s competition in life,” Griggs said. “Continue to work hard with each other.”
Howard thinks that the sky is the limit for not just the QB position, but for the football program as a whole.
“It ain’t about us,” Howard said. “It ain’t about the competition between me and Kwadra. Only thing about us is how can we make Southern Miss better? How can we make the program Top 25 better? Whatever we have going on with the competition, we’re just here to make the program better as a collective.”
The Southern Miss football program will continue to practice until their annual Black & Gold Spring Game on Apr. 22 at 12 p.m.