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Starting QB job is Almond's to lose

By By Tony Krausz / assistant sports editor
April 12, 2004
HATTIESBURG University of Southern Mississippi head football coach Jeff Bower has placed the ball in the hands of Dustin Almond.
The junior quarterback, who threw for 1,877 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2003, is the undisputed No. 1 signal caller for the Golden Eagles.
Almond has backed up his coach's vote of confidence with strong numbers in USM's first two scrimmages of spring drills.
The Orange Park, Fla., native has thrown for a combined 476 yards and six touchdowns in two intersquad games at the Marshall Bell Track and Soccer Complex.
Almond hit 8-of-14 passes for 213 yards and a pair of touchdowns on Saturday, and he completed 11-of-20 passes for 263 yards and four touchdowns on April 3 in the team's first scrimmage.
Sophomore quarterback Damion Carter, who played in five games in 2003 and threw for 238 yards, isn't spending all of his time during spring drills behind center. The New Orleans native is also working out as a wide receiver.
In the first two scrimmages, Carter completed 6-of-13 passes for 88 yards, and he has accumulated 50 receiving yards.
Jeremy Young, who redshirted his freshman season, has taken the most snaps after Almond during spring drills.
The sophomore quarterback completed 6-of-12 passes for 82 yards on Saturday, and he threw for 59 yards and a touchdown in the first scrimmage of the season.
While Carter and Young are more than capable backups for the Eagles, the ball is still in Almond's hands.
The 6-foot-2, 212-pounder struggled at the start of last season, completing just 39.1 percent of his passes for 490 yards as he shared quarterback duties with Micky D'Angelo and Carter.
But Almond came around in the second half of the 2003 regular season, throwing for 1,265 yards and 13 touchdowns with seven interceptions over the last six games.
He threw for over 200 yards in four straight games in the second half of the year and threw one touchdown in six straight games, passing for multiple touchdowns in five contests.
As much as the offense and Almond clicked to close out the 2003 season, the Eagles quickly regressed in the Liberty Bowl against Utah in Memphis on Dec. 31.
USM was held to 213 yards against Utah, and Almond completed just 11-of-33 passes for 122 yards. The Golden Eagles were shut out 17-0.
While the game is one Almond and the Eagles would like to forget, the junior quarterback said the Liberty Bowl does help keep the team working as it prepares to defend its unprecedented fourth Conference USA title in 2004.