HATTIESBURG—If first-year Southern Miss football coach Todd Monken has his way, the battle to be the team’s starting quarterback this season will be a short one.
Monken said Friday after the team’s first practice of fall camp that he plans to narrow the quarterback race down to two players after one week and have the starter set after the second week.
“I hope it’s not a battle after that,” Monken said. “If it is, we’re in trouble. I think they all give us a chance to win. I really do. They all have things they do better than the other guy. We have to keep practicing.”
Monken’s top three quarterbacks to start fall camp are:
—Cole Weeks, a walk-on who earned the top spot in the spring by beating out redshirt freshman Kyle Sloter.
—Ricky Lloyd, who saw his first contact drills since last season after a knee injury ended his 2012 season early.
—California transfer Allan Bridgford, who has been in Hattiesburg for less than two weeks and is still learning Monken’s system and teammate’s names.
If Monken can nail down a starter in two weeks, it would be a huge departure from last year’s 0-12 season when the battle was constant throughout the campaign.
Monken had a similar process one spring as offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State, but this is the first time he has tried it in the month leading up to the season opener.
“We’re seeing if that will work,” he said. “I’m not sure if it will be worth a darn or not. I don’t know any other way to do it.”
True freshmen Nick Mullens and Parker Adamson also received snaps Friday along with Sloter, but Monken is looking to narrow the top three down to one quarterback in the lead up to the Aug. 31 home opener against Texas State.
Bridgford said Friday that he believes the quick competition will make the quarterbacks focus on the importance of each practice.
“Every rep is going to count toward that,” Bridgford said. “If you’re going to have one bad day, it’s going to hurt you.”
Glad to speed it up
Senior running back Jeremy Hester was glad to hear that Monken plans to speed up the quarterback battle with the belief that it will take pressure off the offense as a whole.
“For a while, everybody was kind of wondering who was going to be the quarterback,” Hester said. “Him saying that puts all the quarterbacks on edge and will make them be more focused.”
Bridgford admitted to shaking off some rust on Friday after spending much of summer focusing on graduating from California in order to become immediately eligible to play at USM this season.
As a whole, Monken was pleased with what he saw out of his passers on the first day of practice.
“I thought they did fine,” he said. “The first thing is playing smart football, playing hard for each other and not doing dumb things.”
Monken has been working with Lloyd to help the redshirt sophomore cut down on his release time, a crucial step in his pursuit of the starting job.
“It’s about shortening my throwing motion and helping with my footwork,” Lloyd said. “I’m a little more compact, quicker. I’m working on that. It’s been helping me out and I can tell by my release and the way the ball flies.”
On Friday, Monken wasn’t entirely pleased with what he was seeing in Lloyd’s mechanics.
“Not yet, but it was a short deal today,” Monken said when asked if Lloyd’s progress had met his standards. “The tough part is you can work on mechanics, but you’ve spent the last 10 years of your life playing quarterback, building on that. He’s got a ways to go, but I have seen improvement in his mental approach.” (August 5, 2013, Page 7)