Sharing the spotlight

The Trojans have Cody Kessler returning as the starting quarterback, but don't expect this offense to be pass-first despite his experience as a signal caller.

Even with an impressive finish to the 2013 season, junior quarterback Cody Kessler is content with sharing the spotlight with the abundance of playmakers on the offensive side of the ball for USC. Despite the progression of his starting quarterback and team leader, Steve Sarkisian is adamant that the foundation of the offense starts with running the ball, and Kessler is just fine with that.

“It was a big part of us last year,” Kessler said. “The power run game with Buck and Tre, and Silas when he was here, and being able to do play action off of it. Teams have to respect the run. Any quarterback around the country will tell you they want their running game to be strong. That way it opens up the pass game. It makes it easier for me. I think it was obvious tonight. We had a couple play action plays. Randall’s was over 20-plus yards. The other one down here, Ajene, was another big game. I personally would like the run game to be a big part of our offense.”

With the running game being such a prominent part of the offense, it opens a whole new element of the playbook, that element being the play-action pass that Kessler talked about above. On one certain play Monday, senior tight end Randall Telfer knew before the ball was even snapped that the play would go for a big gain.

“They give you the play and they say if it’s not there, check it off,” Kessler explained. “We got the look we wanted. Randall did a great job just being smart with the play and ran the route perfect. He kind of snuck under everybody and came out down the sideline. That’s what this offense is. You get the looks you want. Coach Sark does a great job, him and Coach Helton, of putting us in the position to get the defense to give us the look we want for the play to work.”

Kessler has had a chance to watch the incoming freshmen play throughout fall camp and like many others, he has been impressed with Adoree Jackson’s playmaking potential. Though he saw it on special teams Monday, Kessler hopes Jackson and his playmaking abilities join forces with him on offense before the season starts.

“That was sweet,” Kessler said when asked about watching Jackson returning kicks. “He’s explosive and JuJu too on the kickoff. When you have guys that are as young as they are making plays like that already, it’s really exciting to see. Hopefully by the end both of them will play on offense. Obviously JuJu is and Adoree will be back and forth, but yeah it’s awesome. They’re playmakers and that’s my main job, when it’s not special teams, to get the ball in their hands and let them do that.”

Most of the preseason talk about USC has been about how good this defense can be with Hayes Pullard leading the way, but Kessler is confident about the offense as well. Slowly, but surely the offense picked up Sarkisian’s playbook in spring and now into fall camp. Kessler is confident his unit will be ready by the season and he was pleased with the offense’s progression from the last scrimmage to Monday’s scrimmage.”

“I felt like we made huge strides,” Kessler stated. “I think we did a lot better. I think we were a lot faster just up-tempo wise. You know, moving the ball down the field. At the start of the scrimmage we had those two drives all the way down and we finished in the end zone. And then at the end there we finished one and got stopped. We hurt ourselves a couple of drives. I took a sack that I shouldn’t have taken and then a couple of penalties, but other than that, form where we were last time to now, scrimmage wise, we did a great job.”

Just as the spotlight is not on him in the offense, Kessler doesn’t expect to be the spotlight of any popular news topic these days. However, when he found out his beard was a popular topic of discussion, Kessler was surprised, wondering why anybody cared about it.

“I don’t know why my beard is such a big deal,” Kessler said puzzled. “I’m going to shave it Saturday. I’m not seeing anybody outside of football.” Top Stories