Kennard moves back where he started

Former starting linebacker Devon Kennard plays defensive end exclusively, as USC starts summer workouts.

Devon Kennard started his USC career at defensive end, a five-star recruit regarded as the future of the Trojan pass rush.

Now after a controversial, perhaps ill-advised move to linebacker, Kennard is going back to where he started.

Kennard confirmed Thursday the speculation he started weeks prior on Twitter, that he will move back to defensive end this season, without any regrets.

"I don't think there are too many guys who came from defensive end to starting middle linebacker in the Pac-12 like I was able to do. I feel like I can still do it. I feel like I'll be ready if my number was ever called for it," Kennard said.

"I'm versatile enough to do whatever. I just want to be on the field come Sept. 3. I want to be one of the 11 starting in whatever way, wherever they want me."

As the team conducted its first voluntary workout of the summer, Kennard worked exclusively with the defensive line, either in a three-point stance or standing up as a rush linebacker.

"Getting used to that, getting back in the mix," Kennard said.

The move certainly came as a surprise, with Kennard listed as the starting middle linebacker on the depth chart released days after the end of spring practice and coaches shooting down speculation that the junior would change positions to either outside linebacker or defensive end.

But the staff approached Kennard a few weeks back about the move.

"It was coaches' decision," he said. "They looked at some of my stuff from freshman year and wanted to see me off the edge again, so I'm doing that and excited. It's what got me here in the first place."

Kennard said he is all for it, even going as far as adding his own wrinkles by studying tape of Clay Matthews' role with the 2008 USC defense as the ‘Elephant,' a hybrid defensive end/linebacker, looking to continue using his experience from 17-game stint at linebacker.

"We'll see when camp starts what Coach O likes better, but I would definitely like the opportunity to get in a two-point and do some of that like Clay did when he was here," said Kennard, who currently weights 244 pounds. "I played linebacker pretty much my whole career here. I want to utilize the skills I learned there."

Putting Kennard at end could revive the USC pass rush, which finished sixth in the conference averaging 2.15 sacks per game, and allow him to showcase his best attributes. Despite arriving as a five-star prospect touted for his skills to get to the quarterback, Kennard has just two career sacks.

Still, pairing him with redshirt junior Nick Perry should create one of the more ferocious pass rush tandems in the Pac-12.

It also ends the experiment of Kennard as a linebacker. Coach Pete Carroll initially pressed him into service as an outside linebacker for the final four games of Kennard's freshman season, compiling 20 tackles and two deflections as a starter in those contests.

Last spring the new staff moved Kennard inside, hoping his physical presence could provide a new dimension after incumbent Chris Galippo wore down during 2009. While Kennard amassed 72 tackles, seven for loss, his lack of instincts at the position were evident.

He struggled to make game-changing plays and eventually gave way to Galippo in the starting lineup for the final five games.

Missing the spring with a hip injury, denying Kennard those 15 practices to continue to develop, might have been the deciding factor in the move.

"There's still some tightness, but overall I was out there running around and left good," Kennard said of his hip.

Galippo, who also missed spring practice because of injury, took the first team reps at middle linebacker, with walk-on Will Andrew serving as his backup. Freshman Lamar Dawson, who is not yet on campus, is also expected to see time at middle linebacker.


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