HATTIESBURG – (AP) First-year Southern Mississippi football coach Ellis Johnson isn’t quite prepared to anoint a starting quarterback.
But junior Chris Campbell made a solid case for the job during the Golden Eagles’ spring football game on Saturday, completing 12 of 18 passes for 167 yards and a touchdown at Roberts Stadium.
“So far, nobody’s really, really stepped up, but I would have to say that Chris has been a little bit more consistent this spring,” said Johnson, who replaced Larry Fedora in December after Fedora took the North Carolina job.
With sophomore Arsenio Favor sidelined with a knee injury, Campbell and redshirt freshman Ricky Lloyd took most of the snaps. The Golden Eagles are trying to replace Austin Davis, a four-year starter who finished his career as the most accomplished quarterback in school history.
Lloyd completed 14 of 28 passes for 199 yards.
Campbell, a junior, led the offense on two touchdown drives in the first half and led another in the third quarter.
“If we had to play tomorrow, he’s the guy who’s got a little bit of an experience level and he would probably give us the least bad plays,” Johnson said.
Campbell didn’t make many bad plays Saturday before an announced crowd of 2,585 at Roberts Stadium, where Southern Miss capped off the spring with a 75-miunte scrimmage that saw the offense score four touchdowns and two field goals. Though there’s still some uncertainty at quarterback, the Golden Eagles have several other starters returning from a team that won 11 games and the Conference USA championship last season.
Linebacker Jamie Collins led the defensive effort with four sacks. Senior safety Martez Thompson and freshman safety DaQuinton Dean each had an interception off redshirt freshman quarterback Cole Weeks.
Campbell said it took everyone time to get on the same page this spring while working through the differences in Johnson’s offensive system.
“It was good to get out here in a game-like environment,” Campbell said. “It took us all a while, and honestly, probably not until practice nine or 10, until we started finally getting a little click, getting a little rhythm as an offense as a whole.
“We still need to brush up on some things, but from day one until now, it’s a dramatic change.”
Campbell had a pair of especially impressive drives. He completed 5 of 6 passes for 57 yards on a 75-yard drive that was capped by senior Desmond Johnson’s 14-yard touchdown run. Then the quarterback was 4 of 4 for 54 yards on his first drive of the second half, tossing a 26-yard touchdown to junior Dominique Sullivan.
Senior receiver Tracey Lampley caught four passes for 90 yards.
Sophomore kicker Corey Acosta made field goals from 26 and 42 yards.