HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The University of Southern Mississippi's quarterback derby seemed to have calmed by the end of the 2017 football season.
When healthy, then-redshirt junior Kwadra Griggs was the clear-cut starter, with sophomore Keon Howard next in line under center.
But with Griggs sidelined with a lower leg injury that may have him out until August, Howard and USM's other signal callers will be sharing reps this spring, giving them an opportunity to not only catch the coaches' collective eye but spend more time getting in synch with their teammates during drills and scrimmages.
"It gives us depth, and, hopefully, we have Kwadra back by the first of August, late July or the first of August," USM coach Jay Hopson said after Saturday's first scrimmage of the spring at M.M. Roberts Stadium. "We'll just let this battle go, and I think that's what makes this world and football go round. Everybody's got to go out and compete and we'll see it plays out."
Griggs and Howard split starts last season, with the former making seven starts, the latter six.
The 6-foot-4, 216-pound Griggs, who missed four games in 2017 while dealing with a hand injury, completed 148-of-265 passes (55.8 percent) for 1,879 yards and 16 touchdowns with just two interceptions. He also netted 260 yards rushing with three scores.
With Griggs shelved for the spring, Howard, red-shirt freshman Marcelo Rodriguez and early junior-college transfer Jack Abraham split the lion's share of snaps during Saturday's scrimmage.
The 6-1, 205-pound Howard completed 96-of-170 passes (56.5 percent) for 1,199 yards and eight touchdowns with five interceptions. He netted 181 rushing yards.
The 6-2, 201-pound Rodriguez did not play in 2017, but his big arm, touch and poise caught observers' eyes after he arrived last summer.
The 6-1, 210-pound Abraham, who was redshirted his first season out of Oxford High School after signing with Louisiana Tech University, took Northwest Mississippi Community College to an 8-3 mark in 2017. The Rangers dropped a 67-66 decision to East Mississippi Community College in the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges' championship football game.
Abraham, who will have three years' eligibility, completed 214-of-337 passes (63.5 percent) for 2,949 yards and 23 touchdowns with eight interceptions.
"We'll go back and look at the film, but from the naked eye right there on the field, I thought Key and Jack, those two had a pretty good day (Saturday)," Hopson said. "But it goes back and forth. 'Celo may come out and have a better day Tuesday.
"It's just part of football. One day, one does good, another day, it's the next, so it's good to have competition. They'll keep competing and it's a long journey. They'll battle all the way because that's what football's all about, competing and battling, and we'll see who comes out of that battle on top."
USM will continue its spring workouts this week, with practices scheduled for Tuesday and Thursday before taking off Easter weekend.