You could say it's been an interesting first couple days of spring practice for freshman quarterback Cody Kessler, a product of Bakersfield Centennial High.
For one, he's been waking up at 4:30 in the morning. For another, he's been practicing against defenders he has noticed are much, much quicker than high school opponents. And, perhaps most interestingly, he's already found himself smack dab in the middle of a position battle along with fellow early enrollee Max Wittek and redshirt freshman Jesse Scroggins for the right to back up Matt Barkley at quarterback come fall.
Kessler, listed at 6-2, 220 pounds, chose to enroll early to get a head start on the USC system and gain an edge to be the Trojans' next starting quarterback. With Wittek doing the same thing, the competition between the two will be one to follow for years to come. But for right now, Kessler's just happy he's at USC in the spring and getting a hang of the offense in real-time, instead of occasionally visiting the team in spring ball and coming in over the summer behind a number of other players.
"It's been a big-time plus," Kessler said. "Especially since we get to see the speed of the game right now instead of going straight into it in the fall. We get to adjust now, learn the offense and get everything down pat now."
Kessler, who's thrown an interception each of the first two days of spring practice to Wittek's zero, said Barkley has been very helpful in both his and Wittek's development so far.
"When we're in the film room, he'll always add in comments or something like that, letting us know who to read or what you're gonna see on the field," Kessler said Thursday. "Because it's a lot different seeing it on film than it is seeing it on the field. He'll definitely tell us what you're gonna see, who you're gonna read, what your progression is.
"Coach [Clay] Helton's real great with that too. When we get out here, if we mess up on a play or we make the wrong read, we'll go say, 'Hey, what can we do better?' And Matt will tell us what to do."
As for the Wittek-Kessler battle that will surely be taking up headlines in the coming years, Kessler said he's trying to avoid all talk of that sorts for at least the near future.
"You can't really think like that," he said. "You just have to come out here and try to make the team better and do what the team needs. We never get into our own single competition. We all know we're competing out here, but we never really get in it. And once you start getting into 'I' and all that stuff, it's gonna start affecting you at the same time."