For the second straight week USC quarterback Cody Kessler can prepare for Saturday's game knowing he's the starter and he'll be in the entire game when the Trojans host Utah State on Saturday.
Kessler led the USC offense to 521 total yards on offense in the Trojans win last Saturday over Boston College, including 264 passing yards.
"I'm just trying to improve each week," Kessler said after Tuesday's practice. "I feel a lot more settled now. This week it's just back to work.
"The drama and controversy has settled down so it's just nice to get back to working hard."
Through three games, two in which he only played a half, Kessler is 33-of-49 for 373 yards and three touchdowns; he's also rushed for a touchdown. Kessler has thrown two interceptions.
He completed all but two of his 17 passes on Saturday, including 14 straight after missing his first throw of the game. "I feel like I've established a rhythm with the ones," Kessler explained. "When we are in there we kind of start flowing and get that rhythm going – not even with just the receivers, but the offensive line, the running backs, the tight ends, everything."
Kessler completed passes to eight different players against Boston College.
Preparing for Utah State
USC's limited (due to roster numbers) scout team has its hands full this week trying to prepare the Trojan starters to face Utah State and quarterback Chuckie Keeton.
"It is difficult, obviously," Kiffin explained of the scout team's job. "[Utah State] is so multiple in their personnels.
"We're doing our best to give our guys the best look that we can with the guys that we have over there."
Through three games Keeton is 82-of-105 for 923 yards, throwing 12 touchdowns and only one interception. He's rushed 28 times for 207 yards and a touchdown.
"This is a dynamic player," Kiffin explained. "We're going to have to do a great job covering because he can throw the ball. We're going to have to do a great job tackling because he is so elusive."
Tale of the backs
Kiffin said Tuesday that the loss of tailback Tre Madden a season ago to a blown ACL during spring practice was a "big deal" but no one outside the program knew how big, since Madden hadn't been seen the back in game action. "What we had seen in practice already, he had shown to be an every down back and a unique running back," Kiffin explained.
A season later and fully recovered from the knee injury, USC fans and opponents are getting to see what Kiffin and his staff expected from Madden before he was forced to sit out a year.
Now a redshirt sophomore, Madden is off to a fast start for the Trojans. He's rushed for over 100 yards in each of USC's first three games; the first back to accomplish such a feat since Marcus Allen in his 1981 Heisman Trophy season.
"He's done a great job coming back," Kiffin said. "It's hard to start much better than he has."
Freshman Justin Davis was expected to play a significant role in the offense after a breakthrough spring and so far he's delivering. The five-star recruit fell just four yards short on Saturday of putting together his first 100-yard rushing game in his young Trojan career. He finished with 96 yards including a touchdown. Davis' longest run was 39 yards, dodging multiple defenders.
"There were times [last Saturday] he made three or four guys miss on the same play," Kiffin said. "He's just a unique runner with great skills."
Kiffin shows emotion
One of the routine criticisms of Kiffin during his tenure as head coach at USC has been the lack of emotion he shows on the sideline.
He's often described as "removed" from his team, with his "head down" in his play card and "emotionless".
But Kiffin changed that perception, if only for a moment, in a big way on Saturday when receiver Marqise Lee caught a pass from Cody Kessler and broke for an 80-yard touchdown down the USC sideline.
A photo has been circulating of Kiffin running on the heels of Lee down the sideline as the receiver broke for the end zone. The head coach said he couldn't resist showing excitement for his team after what he already dubbed "hell week".
"I just think it had been a very hard week for these players, they'd been through a lot," Kiffin explained. "There was a lot of negativity around them.
"For me, I don't leave [the office] so I don't read it, I don't see it," Kiffin continued. "But they have to go to class, they have to go out, they have to be around the city and deal with it and it was difficult. So I think in that game when they started performing well I just really felt great for them."
Lee laughed after practice, "I told coach Kiffin ‘You almost caught me!'"
No more Nikias
When asked when he decided and how he decided the first play of the game against Boston College would be a deep post-route throw to Marqise Lee, Kiffin admitted that it was actually the idea of USC president Max Nikias.
Nikias knew a cheer would come from the seats of the Coliseum whether the pass was completed or not.
The pass fell just beyond the fingertips of Lee and Kiffin says Nikias won't get a shot to call the play again.
"He's 0-1," Kiffin said, smirking.
Redd to redshirt?
Senior tailback Silas Redd has yet to see any game action through the Trojans first three games of the season as he continues to recover from a torn meniscus suffered during spring practices.
Redd traveled to Pensacola (Fla.) to undergo a procedure performed by renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews when the Trojans traveled to Hawaii for their season opener.
Redd continues to walk into and out of practice everyday wearing sneakers. It is not believed he has begun to participate in drills again.
As the season continues and Redd remains sidelined, it becomes more plausible to think that perhaps the senior will redshirt this season.
Kiffin would not comment on the possibility of Redd redshirting, only saying "I hope he plays this week," which has been Kiffin's go-to answer when asked about Redd's availability.