Sophomore Sandy Nichols, the third quarterback on the Howard depth chart a week ago, now is even with Raymond Gray for the starting spot, Coach Floyd Keith said yesterday.

Keith said the starter against visiting Florida A & M Saturday would be determined in practice this week.

At least Keith has candidates for the starting quarterback position. Because of injuries, he will not know until Friday who will be available on the offensive and defensive lines.

Nichols, a 6-foot, 175-pounder from Chesapeake, Va., completed six of 12 passes for 142 yards in Saturday's 34-6 loss to South Carolina State. He started the season as the No. 2 quarterback, but lost that position to freshman Brian Sloan.

Sloan threw two passes when he replaced Gray late in the first half against State with the score 20-0. The second was intercepted, and led to the Bulldogs scoring with 23 seconds left in the half.

After a shaky start, including a fumbled snap that State recovered, Nichols threw completions of 68 and 43 yards to split end Tracy Singleton.

Keith would not say specifically he was unhappy with the play of senior Gray, who was five of 16 for 46 yards and two interceptions.

"We just weren't doing anything on offense," Keith said. "I felt we just had to make a change. Sometimes you just need a change to get things going. You have to have a sense for that."

Gray, however, said he fully expects to start against the Rattlers.

The injuries to both lines forced junior Craig Cason to play both offensive and defensive tackle for much of the final three quarters of the State game. Cason probably will start on offense Saturday, but double duty is not out of the question.