What's really going on with Bryce Dixon?

Steve Sarkisian says with no game for 6 months, 'the focus is on today' for this team. Cody Kessler says the hype is 'irrelevant.'

Maybe it makes sense Cody Kessler was the prime spokesman on this first day of spring practice Tuesday. After all, he'll be here five years this fall and he's "seen it all," Cody said. He's been through the high expectations of 2012 and the quarterback battle that wouldn't end in 2013.

He's been the young guy redshirting on a very good USC team in 2011 and a struggling second backup on a struggling 2012 team. And now he's a Heisman candidate.

And in late-breaking news, a USC spokesman said that contrary to published reports, Dixon is still on the USC roster and has not been dismissed from the team. Stay tuned.

Most of all, Cody said, he'd like to be a leader on a team that finishes strong. "It's a cliche about whether you're picked first or 10th, it's how you finish."

As for the Heisman hype, or even the team hype, "Honestly, I think it's irrelevant,' he says. but that's just how he looks at it. Then he admits it's "pretty cool," when people think that much of you but he quotes USC Heisman winner Marcus Allen on how "he told me he would trade his Heisman for a national championship<," and that's how Cody looks at it. "It's all about team."

And with the exception of the missing Bryce Dixon, out because of "a student conduct issue" that is all very murky, Kessler and the quarterbacks had lots of folks making plays today -- Juju Smith, Steven Mitchell, Darreus Rogers, Ajene Harris, Isaac Whitney. They've all been texting him to throw the last few weeks, he says.

"I need to get my timing down with them," he says with the departure of No. 1 target, Nelson Agholor. That means getting the ball out quicker, avoiding sacks and "maybe even throwing the ball before they make their cuts."

Cody is what a head coach hopes for, Steve Sarkisian said. "A fifth-year senior" who is"playing with a chip on his shoulder."

One other note from Cody: This team is very far ahead of where the Trojans were on Day 1 a year ago in spring. As they should be.

Sark not looking to the fall

"Year 1," Sark said, you're just trying to get through as best as you can. "Year 2, a well-oiled machine . . . without a doubt," Sark said with his favorite catchphrase on a four "without a doubt" day.

His coaching staff "has been here 12 months" (except for O-line coach Bob Connelly, who only looks like he's been here that long). "I'm able to delegate a lot more," Sark says.

He's also in no hurry to get this team game-ready. "We don't play a football game for six months," Sark said. "The focus is on today."

As for today, players who jumped out at Sark were Lamar Dawson, who didn't look anything like the player they saw in the fall, Sark said, the way he was moving around out there. Another he noted was Steven Mitchell, who will move to the outside receiver Thursday when Adoree Jackson moves over to offense.

Sark also talked of how Chris Hawkins' "high football IQ" should help him at safety in a move they're going to try out for a while and how Nico Falah has had a great offseason and will be at left tackle now behind Toa Lobendahn. No need to hurry freshman Chuma Edoga, Sark said. He's backing up right tackle behind ach Banner.

12,000-calorie man ID'ed

As we'd have guessed, the Trojan eating 12,000 calories a day (remember how much they made of Olympian Michael Phelps' 10,000-calories-a-day diet) is senior center Max Tuerk. And apparently it's working. "I eat every two hours," says Max, who has gained more than 10 pounds since the end of the season and should be able to play at the 295 he's shooting for this season. "It's an insane amount of eating," he says. pretty much a full meal every couple of hours.

Madden may be back after break

"I was really down on myself," Tre Madden said of his unsuccessful attempts to return last fall from what was thought to be a simple case of turf toe. But then they discovered it was actually a problem with his sesamoid bone in his right toe that had to be rejoined and now there's a zipper in his foot marking the spot.

"Hopefully after spring break," he says of USC's March 14-24 time off, then he'll get some contact work to finish up spring. Tre says he plans to play a little bit lighter, in the 218- to 223-pound range, this season.

Sark said he'd forgotten how big Tre is in his lower half, how powerful, and "he's got a high football IQ as a former quarterback . . . and he can catch the ball."


Agholor, Buck Allen, Damian Williams and Tom Malone were among the Trojans back for Tuesday's practice . . . Fans wanting to watch practice, sitting in Loker Stadium close to Cromwell Field, get to see and hear pretty much everything going on -- not a bad way to get back in action watching practice . . . one fan was here for his first practice since 2010 before the sanctions . . . said he loved it . . . one difference here was the way fans in the stands were on their laptops monitoring the USC unbeaten baseball team's walkoff loss at UC Santa Barbara . . . bet it's been a long time since that has happened . . . Anthony Sarao missed practice with something Sark described as simply a foot issue.

CHECK THIS OUT: More details on Tuesday's workout at TUESDAY SPRING DAY 1 GHOST NOTES.

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

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