There was one lingering question for Jay Hopson to answer before the start of the 2017 season: Who would be the starting QB? He chose Kwadra Griggs, the transfer from Itawamba CC but Griggs hurt his hand. So Hopson chose Keon Howard, the Laurel, MS native and talented sophomore who had shown signs of his ability and a frustrating tendency to fumble the ball in his time spelling Nick Mullens in 2016.
Griggs redshirted while Howard got starters’ snaps in 2016 and they both competed for the job right up to and during the Kentucky game. In truth, they shared QB duties all season and neither really grabbed the job for themselves.
Griggs replaced Howard against Kentucky and had a nice stretch of games before showing his inability to complete passes with consistency against the terrible pass defense that was North Texas.
Griggs hurt his hand sometime against North Texas and Howard then stepped in for three wins including UTSA and La Tech on the road. Still, during that stretch he threw four interceptions (some really awful ones) and had fumble issues. Griggs reappeared during the struggles against UAB and Tennessee and finally took over against Rice, Charlotte, and Marshall.
All told, Griggs had the better season numerically, but Howard showed enough to keep everyone intrigued. Is there enough time to teach him to keep the ball safe? Should he sit out a season while Marcelo Rodriguez gets a turn as the backup? What about new JUCO signee Jack Abraham?
Depth at the QB position is important, but depth and a constant churn is another. Griggs is the starter but there were some obvious points where his play was holding the team back from much better. Ito Smith was the engine but he was often the only good part of an offense that would stagnate. The talent on the roster for 2017 certainly makes the second-place finish (third?) to NT (and UAB) disappointing. Bad luck at the QB spot has followed Hopson in his first two seasons.
The win total and the bowl destination and opponent are good on the surface, but a deeper look at the entire season will leave Golden Eagle fans wondering what could have been.