Heisman hype last of Cody's worries

Forget the hype, USC's focus has to be on getting young guys ready right now. It's about team and to have the team USC hopes to have, the young guys have to be able to step up.

The reaction is right out of one of those vampire movies after someone waves a cross in the blood-sucker's face.

All you have to do is ask Cody Kessler about "the Heisman hype." And there's that look and head shake. Just as Cody doesn't want to talk about the early pre-winter throwing workouts because he thinks it's way too early to be critiquing the young guys here, he really doesn't want to hear the "H" word.

"They're not about me, they're about getting the young guys up to speed," he says of the sessions.

As for the Heisman early notice, how he's been listed on every single slate of top 2015 candidates, please don't ask him. Don't make this about him. This isn't about him, he says.

At first, he just throws it off like it's not there. Has he been hearing about it, having to deal with it, had to come up with a strategy for it? "Not really," he says. "I may get people texting me asking if I saw something but that's about it."

And to be honest, handling the Heisman hype "is the last of my worries," Kessler says. Even thinking about winning it, well, why would he spend any time doing that? This isn't an individual sport.

But isn't that the point, you ask Cody. As Pete Carroll made clear, the only way the Heisman comes, as it did three times in four years when USC won two national titles and was within seconds of a third in a 36-3 run, is if the team does well.

"Now that would be cool," Cody says, using one of his favorite words. "That's what's more important, what the team does. I'd much more rather win the Pac-12 or a national championship."

Win either of those and he might be in New York, you tell him. But you can tell that's not where Cody's head is right now. "We're just trying to get these young guys ready to go."

One of them, Cody's co-leader here, freshman Juju Smith, just turned 18 in November, is no longer one of those young guys. He's an organizer, motivator and seems to have stepped into Nelson Agholor's role.

"It's cool to have him out there like that," Cody says. "It's cool to have somebody who's young on the same wave length with you the way he is."

Sure, next year USC will have more bodies with a full recruiting class but will be younger on the field. That's the sense of watching the winter workouts.

With Leonard Williams, Buck Allen, Gerald Bowman, J.R. Tavai, Randall Telfer, Josh Shaw and George Farmer departing, this team will certainly have a younger feel despite all the freshmen who played this year.

"We're going to need them to be ready," Cody says. "That's our whole focus here."

They don't have a choice. Because they do understand about the "way too early Top 25" type hype for the Trojans team as well, with ESPN opening them up at either No. 3 or No. 4 in two of their early prediction pieces for the fall.

"That's a good thing," Cody says, "not really pressure. I don't see it as a problem. It's kind of cool, it's people recognizing how hard we've been working. I'm never going to be unhappy with anything like that."

Then there's this. "Last year, we were right there," Cody says. And didn't get it done at the end too many times. So when people expect USC to get it right this time, Cody likes the sound of that.

But in the end, none of that really matters. What matters, Cody says, is what this USC team does. And there is one goal they've agreed on here.

"Not to lose a single game," he says. That's it. Simple as can be. Win 'em all. Figure out a way. Do it, don't say it.

It's why he's out here getting the young guys ready for the official winter workouts.

You can follow me on Twitter at @dweber3440 or email me at weber@uscfootball.com.


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