University of Southern Mississippi quarterback Keon Howard, who started eight games behind center the past two seasons, announced via Twitter Thursday that he was leaving the Golden Eagles.
“Dear USM Family,” Howard’s tweet began. “It is with great regret that I inform you of my decision to not continue my education and football career at (t)he University of Southern Mississippi.”
The tweet did not say why Howard, a junior-to-be, decided to leave nor what his future plans were.
“I would like to thank the coaching staff, my teammates, staff members, student body and others who have supported me,” the tweet continued. “I will not forget the moments spent battling at The Rock with my teammates and the loyalty from the fans in victory or defeat.
“These past few years I have enjoyed my time getting to know everyone that is involved with Southern Miss (f)ootball. I would like to thank everyone for the help and support that I have received. My love for Southern Miss will continue to reign on as I wish you guys continued success next season.”
The tweet ended, “Sincerely, Keon Howard.”
Howard, who led Laurel High School to the Class 5A football championship in 2015, appeared to be headed toward a red-shirt season with the Golden Eagles a year later.
But late-season injuries to starting quarterback Nick Mullens and backup Parker Adamson saw Howard thrust into the starting lineup in a pair of November road games at Old Dominion University and University of North Texas.
He became just the sixth, true freshman quarterback to start a game for the Golden Eagles.
Howard, who also appeared in USM’s final two games of 2016, completed 44 percent of his passes for 365 yards and a touchdown with four interceptions. He finished as the team’s fourth-leading rusher, netting 150 yards and scoring two touchdowns.
He had his best passing day at ODU, throwing for 230 yards and a score, but lost four fumbles, was intercepted once and was tackled in the end zone for a safety.
Against North Texas, Howard was intercepted three times and lost another fumble, giving him nine turnovers in his two starts.
In USM’s next game, Mullens returned at quarterback, though Howard played in opening series in the backfield of a “Wildcat” set as well as receiver. He rushed four times for 12 yards, scoring the game’s first touchdown on a 4-yard run, and also caught a 2-yard pass.
After competing throughout the 2017 spring and preseason with red-shirt junior college transfer Kwadra Griggs, Howard started the season behind center, but then split starts with Griggs in USM’s next two games.
When Griggs suffered an injury to his hand in the fourth game of the season, Howard started the next five games. But Griggs returned to the starting role for the final four games of the year, with Howard seeing action in just one of those games.
Howard finished his sophomore season completing 96 of 170 passes for 1,199 yards and eight touchdowns with five interceptions. He once again finished fourth on the team in rushing, netting 181 yards on 54 carries.
Howard had a career-best 84-yard touchdown pass to running back Ito Smith against University of Alabama-Birmingham and finished with career-best three touchdown passes against the Blazers and at Louisiana Tech University.
With Griggs sidelined this past spring with a foot injury, Howard turned in a solid spring competing with red-shirt freshman Marcelo Rodriguez and junior college transfer Jack Abraham at the top quarterback spot.
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