By Mark Schremmer
Globe Sports Writer
After a week of practices for the Missouri Southern football team, competition remains fierce at several starting positions.
“You have a lot of people competing for a lot of jobs,” Missouri Southern coach Daryl Daye said. “The intensity level is there. And the enthusiasm is there, so it’s our job to get everyone in the right positions and execute.”
Most notably, competition remains at quarterback. Sophomore Jay McDowell holds the lead with junior college transfers Ty’Quan Hayes and Detavis Buggs not far behind.
The three players are battling to replace Kellen Cox, who passed for 544 yards and rushed for 867 and 13 touchdowns as a senior.
“It’s a heated battle, and it’s close,” Daye said. “It might be one, two and three, but it’s a very close one, two and three.”
McDowell (6-foot-2, 190 pounds) entered camp with the slight lead after working with the first unit during spring practice. He continues to take the majority of the snaps with the first unit.
“Jay’s still the guy, but the other guys are closing in pretty quick,” Daye said. “But Jay’s walked out and taken the leadership role over and asserted himself right off the bat. Right now, Jay’s still the guy and those other guys are competing hard and doing very well.”
McDowell completed 8 of 15 passes with one interception for 152 yards, playing seven games in a reserve role as a true freshman. He possesses ability to be a dangerous runner in the Lions’ option offense, rushing for 172 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries. McDowell helped cap a 47-20 homecoming win against South Dakota Mines with an 80-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
Named one of the top 100 players in Louisiana by LA Magazine, McDowell helped lead Covington (La.) High School to a 7-4 record and a trip to the playoffs his senior season.
Hayes (6-1, 210) signed with the Lions in April after earning all-conference honors with Independence Community College in 2011. That season, he completed 63 of 107 passes for 685 yards and four touchdowns, while rushing for 457 yards and two touchdowns. Yahoo listed Hayes as one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the junior college ranks.
Coming from Dillon High School in South Carolina, Hayes was an all-state and co-conference player of the year. At Dillon, Hayes won state championships in 2008 and 2009 and set school records for most TD passes (32) and passing yards (2,209).
Buggs (6-1, 215) joins Missouri Southern after playing in five games with Eastern Arizona College last season. Playing high school ball at Harris County in Georgia, Buggs was a Dandy Dozen selection as a senior.
After the top three, Missouri Southern also has redshirt freshmen Ricky Nichols and Tyler Cain and true freshmen Corey Moss and Gabe Sachetta as quarterbacks on the roster.
Daye said he has been pleased to see all of the competition.
“There are a lot of tight races, but that’s how you get better,” he said. “If you’re sitting there with two deep or even have some third-teamers who are competing, you’re doing nothing but getting better. People are having to work hard to obtain that starting position.”