USM coaches anxious to see Griggs on practice field

By CAMAL PETRO,

Kwadra Griggs, last season’s Southern Miss starting quarterback, returned to the team for Friday’s practice. The redshirt senior was suspended indefinitely in August, “pending resolution of a student conduct matter.”

USM announced Friday Griggs has been reinstated in good standing.

“Everybody was excited. I think the entire team,” Southern Miss coach Jay Hopson said Monday. “We had a hoop and holler session in here, so we’re just thrilled for him. This wasn’t a football suspension. Bottom line is it was certainly great to see him get back in the fold, and we’re excited to have him back.”

Griggs rejoins the quarterback room that has Jack Abraham, Marcelo Rodriguez and Tate Whatley, who have seen the field this season. Abraham started the first two games, completing 52 of his 73 passes for 620 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions. He also had two fumbles, and all four turnovers came in the Week 2 loss to Louisiana-Monroe after a near-perfect performance against Jackson the week prior.

In limited action, Rodriguez is 3-for-5 for 8 yards and two interceptions, and Whatley is 1-for-1 for 5 yards while rushing for 41 yards and a score on four attempts.

Both Hopson and offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said Abraham still is the starter for the Golden Eagles, but Hopson didn’t shy away from saying there will be a competition by saying, “We’re going to play it out and see how it unfolds.”

Abraham is the starter, but the Southern Miss coaches are looking forward to bring Griggs back into the fold.

Of course, it remains to be seen how game-ready Griggs is at this point in time. He wasn’t able to practice with the team for a month, but Dawson did say Griggs has watched every practice and game film.

“Mentally he’s sharp, but again, he hadn’t taken a lot of reps,” Dawson said. “We’ll see. It’d be naive to think he doesn’t have to knock a little rust off. In his situation, it’s good to be back, and in our situation, it’s good to have him back.”

Dawson said he’s talked with both Griggs and Abraham multiple times about the situation, and the word he used to describe it was “empathy.”

“Ultimately, we have to do what’s best for this team to win football games,” Dawson said. “As a group, we’re going to be in together, and whoever is on the field, the other people are going to support 100 percent. We’re dealing with guys who care more about this team than they care about themselves.

“I think the word empathy in this situation is very important. It’s very important for Kwadra, it’s very important for Jack and it’s very important for myself. Every one of us has to be able to empathize with the other person. Nobody wants to be in the situation Kwadra was in. Kwadra has to understand the position Jack was in. Both of them have to understand the situation I am in.”

Southern Miss’ game with Appalachian State Saturday was canceled due to the threat of Hurricane Florence to the state of North Carolina, and its next game is set for next Saturday against Rice at M.M. Roberts Stadium.

Griggs will get plenty of reps in practice this week, and Abraham is still expected to start for Southern Miss Saturday. Hopson said he’ll have a better idea of where Griggs’ game is at later this week.

“Right now, he’s only been back one day,” Hopson said Monday. “He’s going to get a lot of reps this week, so I’m going to have a better idea and be able to tell you more intelligently on Thursday than I can right now after one practice.”

Kickoff for Saturday’s home game with Rice is set for 6 p.m.

Southern Miss’ game time with Auburn in two weeks was announced Monday. The Golden Eagles will play on SEC Network at 3 p.m. against the nationally-ranked Tigers.

PREP SPORTS: