Fall Camp: Kessler shines in scrimmage

Cody Kessler is nearly flawless in first full-pads practice, throwing three touchdowns Monday.

LOS ANGELES – When USC head coach Lane Kiffin said over the weekend that the Trojans' young skill players are "starting to look like they used to" during the halcyon days of Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush and Mike Williams, he likely didn't expect them to dominate the team's first scrimmage Monday night at the Coliseum.

Led by a nearly flawless performance by freshman quarterback Cody Kessler, first or second-year players accounted for five of USC's seven touchdowns during the 122-play practice, the first of fall camp in full pads.

"I thought Cody played really well, which speaks for probably what he is, which is a gamer," Kiffin said. "He's not the guy that walks on the field in warm-ups and blows everybody away. There have been a lot of guys like that that have been great quarterbacks. He showed it again."

Kessler completed 15 of 18 passes for 187 yards and three touchdowns, connecting with sophomore running back Dillon Baxter on a 16-yard score and freshman wide receiver Marqise Lee for a 24-yard score. The Bakersfield (Calif.) Centennial signal-caller also threw a pass that was intercepted by redshirt freshman linebacker Dion Bailey who jumped the route and returned it 25 yards for a touchdown, Kessler's lone mistake of the evening.

"I get to go in and watch film and learn from that and hopefully not make the same mistake again," Kessler said. "And I came back (from the interception)."

With the Trojans looking for a new backup behind junior Matt Barkley, the incumbent hinted that Kessler made the most of an extended audition.

"He got a lot of playcalls that seemed to go his way. Kif was airing it out with him and he took advantage of those calls," said Barkley, who was 10 for 20 for 82 yards with one touchdown and one interception before sitting out the entire second half.

After pushing redshirt freshman Jesse Scroggins (4 for 14, 41 yards) in the spring for the No. 2 job after enrolling early, Kessler continues to look more comfortable with the offense. He was especially impressive in putting the ball where his receivers could make plays, placing his throws to allow redshirt junior Brice Butler and Lee to use their athleticism.

Most importantly, he was able to put aside the distractions of moving from Howard Jones Field onto a bigger stage, something Kiffin said most freshmen struggled with.

"I love being under the lights. I love playing, especially at the Coliseum. It's a great feeling," Kessler said.

The other newcomer not fazed by the historic venue was freshman running back Amir Carlisle, who rushed for 82 yards on 10 carries, showcasing his elusiveness once again on a 20-yard touchdown to end the evening.

"Amir continues to do things right. He did not come in here like a lot of the other freshmen did," Kiffin said.

After watching Robert Woods go through fall camp a year ago to start every game and lead USC in receptions and receiving yards, Barkley sees similarities between the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year and Carlisle.

"They are similar in how they approach the game and how hard they study the game and how hard they go every play. It's good to see that from a freshman, not talking or expecting things to be given to them but just putting his head down, shutting his mouth and doing work," Barkley said.

Quick Hits
-Redshirt freshman running back D.J. Morgan ran for 160 yards on 24 carries. Baxter rushed for 103 yards on 12 carries with a 12-yard scoring run.

-Defensive end Wes Horton had three tackles for loss, including two sacks.

-Safety Demetrius Wright suffered a hip pointer, Kiffin said.

-Cornerbacks Torin Harris (concussion) and Brian Baucham (hamstring) did not participate in the scrimmage. Tight end Xavier Grimble was held out after undergoing X-rays on his neck earlier in the day, which Kiffin said did not show any injury.

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