One of the most valuable commodities in college football is a fifth-year senior quarterback, especially one who is a multiyear starter with a nice collection of records already in his back pocket.
The Trojans have one of those quarterbacks this year in Cody Kessler and the unquestioned leader of the USC team delivered the kind of performance you would expect from such a veteran during the spring sessions which come to a close on Saturday with the annual spring game in the Coliseum.
When it came time to talk about what was achieved this spring, Kessler predictably focused on team growth, and the fact that there was an increased comfort level in the second spring under Steve Sarkisian.
“It’s been a big improvement from last year to this year, just being in the system for a year now,” Kessler said. “We know our coaches now, they know us. There is just no substitute for that. That allows practice to be a lot more competitive instead of needing to focus on learning everything. It’s the same offense now but guys are moving quicker and we can add stuff as we’re going along. We couldn’t have done that last year because we were learning the base install.”
As for things to work on for Kessler, Sarkisian wanted his quarterback to focus on quicker anticipation, to trust what he sees and make fast decisions, something that Kessler says has improved as he gets practice reps with some new faces.
“I think the anticipation got better with the timing,” Kessler said. “I had a lot of time with JuJu [Smith] last year but the other guys are pretty new. For me this spring has been a great opportunity to get comfortable with those new faces, guys who didn’t start last year. Steven Mitchell is one guy who stands out, he’s done a great job filling that slot position, and with Adoree' [Jackson] coming over and playing both sides, it was a chance to work with him too.”
Kessler also commented on the offensive line, a group that returns intact with a new position coach, and a lot of hopes for what can be accomplished.
“I just think those guys are more experienced,” Kessler said. “The biggest thing we talk about with the line and the backs is the need to eliminate sacks. I think we had 25 or 30 last year and we can’t have that next year, we need to narrow it down.”
With one final chance to go out on Saturday in front of the Cardinal and Gold faithful before the long break until fall camp, Kessler knows what he wants to accomplish in his last spring game as a Trojan.
“It’s an opportunity to get in front of our fans and show them what we’ve worked so hard for. They want to see guys make plays and I think we’ll do that.”