HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Whistles blowing and coaches yelling, the sounds of football returned to Southern Miss on Friday afternoon as the Golden Eagles held their first day of spring practice.
"Getting back out here, it feels good to be back out here," said Ito Smith who rushed for 1,459 yards and 17 touchdowns for USM last season. "You know, trying to move forward this year."
"The reality is we've got a lot of competition this spring for jobs so there's nothing that can really be determined today because today was a learning day," said second-year USM head coach Jay Hopson.
Sophomore Keon Howard and redshirt junior Kwadra Griggs began their campaigns Friday for the starting quarterback job. Howard may have a leg up, having appeared in three games for the Golden Eagles last season. However Griggs, a transfer from Itwamaba Community College, embraces the challenge spring presents.
"Well it's competition in life," Griggs said. "We just continue to compete and continue to work hard with each other. We make each other better. We just follow each other and try to lead this team together."
"You know it ain't about us," Howard said. "It ain't about the competition between me and Kwadra. Only thing it's about at the end of the day is how can we make Southern Miss better, how can we make the program better? How can we make the program ESPN top 25 better?"
Replacing USM's all-time passing leader in Nick Mullens will be a chief concern in 2017. But as the Golden Eagles lost five players on both offense and defense, respectively, Hopson said spring will be a battle across the field.
"It makes spring fun, especially when we put the pads on because there's a lot guys that will be competing for starting jobs," Hopson said. "I think sometimes that adds to a little bit of the intensity of spring."