HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - In Southern Miss football's second scrimmage of the spring season, head coach Jay Hopson said the offense made some strides as quarterbacks Keon Howard and Kwadra Griggs continue to battle for the starting job come September.
"Just continue to just work hard, come together as a team and just do our assignments," said Griggs, a redshirt junior transfer from Itawamba Community College. "Don't try to be heroes. Just continue to compete and work hard."
The Golden Eagle receivers benefitted from the two quarterbacks' progression. Senior Isaiah Jones hauled in a number of passes on Saturday including two touchdown catches.
"It's hard because [Howard and Griggs] are both so good," Jones said. "We're all getting used to each other and they just keep making plays. They keep putting the ball in good spots where we can make plays."
"They're just going hard at practice," said USM junior defensive back Curtis Mikell. "They give us challenges, the receivers give us challenges. They throw good balls so it ain't just a walk in the park. They're good quarterbacks."
The Southern Miss defense has focused on forcing turnovers this spring after finishing 125th of 128 FBS teams in turnover margin last season. With five starters to replace on the defensive side of the ball, several young Eagles are allowed an opportunity this spring.
"Yeah it's just me and a couple of young guys have to step up and play big," said USM senior defensive lineman Xavier Thigpen. "We've got guys like [junior defensive lineman] LaDarius Harris who had a lot of playing time last year. So I think we'll be fine. Yeah we're missing a couple of guys but we do have enough younger guys that are coming up that had great experiences last year as well."
Although USM's season-opener against Kentucky is nearly five months away, coach Hopson has stressed to his team that spring's dress rehearsals are vital to the Eagles' fall campaign.
"You have to emphasize that daily," Hopson said. "That's the reality of coaching. As far as I'm concerned, the season starts today. As coaches, that's our charge and that's what we have to do."
"Just don't forget the why," Thigpen said. "Why we're out here. You'll hear it in the locker room all the time: 'Man I can't wait til Kentucky.' It's coming. I know we're not going to lose focus. It's coming."