Clay Helton was looking back as he talked about Tuesday and thankful that four years ago, "when we had Matt Barkley, we were able to give Cody [Kessler] reps." For an offensive coordinator responsible for the quarterbacks, Helto couldn't ask for any more.
A bigger, stronger, more explosive Kessler is a Heisman candidate going into his final fall and right behind him, three springs into his USC career, is Max Browne. And he could step in for Cody any time, any place.
"No question," Helton said. "Max is playing lights out for us," Steve Sarkisian said.
What Helton is telling Max is that "when he's in there, it's his team . . . nothing changes . . . you're not stepping on Cody's toes."
The change in Cody this year has come from his core strength work that Sark says allows Cody to buy time by not so much running the ball on third-down plays but stepping through and throwing on the run even better than he always has.
"He's a tremendous play-action quarterback," Helton says, "not only in the pocket but outside it."
Much of the credit for Browne's improvement goes to his work with strength coach Ivan Lewis, Helton says. "He's become an elite college player at the position."
And if the last week or so is any indicator, Jalen Greene is on that same glide path, Helton says. The combination of his second spring and working hard to improve his mechanics to go with his tremendous athleticism is having an impact,
Sark said that it took a bit of time in Tuesday's practice at the Coliseum in shorts, shells and helmets before the Trojans got the hang of a workout that would be high on running and less physical in terms of hitting but that they picked it up pretty quickly . . . Sark agreed with the general consensus that the star of the mid-practice dance contest was freshman O-lineman Roy Hemsley, who had some impressive moves for a 300-plus pounder . . . Four wide receivers were named by Sark for impressive work Tuesday -- Steven Mitchell, who had one especially explosive breakout run after a catch for a 70-yard TD on a crossfield cutback, along with Ajene Harris, Juju Smith and Isaac Whitney, who is starting to catch the coaches' notice: "All of them," Sark said . . . fullbacks Soma Vainuku and Jahleel Pinner were getting more action, especially catching passes, by design, Sark said, with the two tight ends, Connor Spears and Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick, who have had so much work thus far in the spring, getting a chance to not get called on so much . . . Sark said that contrary to one published report, Adoree Jackson will not be joining the USC track and field team at the Florida Relays this weekend missing Thursday and Saturday practices but will join the team after the April 11 spring game . . . on a padless practice day, the one defender who got a chance to really shine was linebacker Su'a Cravens, whose number kept getting called to blitz . . . he's becoming a load to handle in the pass game and that's not just a one-day thing but what he's been doing all spring . . . "And it's not just his athleticism . . . but his attitude," Sark said . . . With Toa stepping in to take over the second-team center spot, that gave Nico Falah a chance for a number of reps at first-team left tackle and according to Sark, Nico's development is 'a classic example" of a player not coming in all that highly touted and just developing over time . . . and finally, Sark talked of what became a teachable moment for this USC football team that met to talk about AD Pat Haden's decision Tuesday not to attend the CFB Playoff committee's meeting in Indianapolis in honor of his gay son. "We're the most diverse university in America in the most diverse city in America," Sark said. And there have been so many lessons to learn about race, gender, sex abuse in recent days and this is just one more of them, Sark said, and they support Pat here.
Davis joining the chemistry game
We hear a great deal about the offensive line getting its chemistry right but tailback Justin Davis says he'd like to be a part of that game. "Definitely the chemistry is working out right now," he says of his chance to be the lead back for a full spring after a heavy work day Tuesday. "It's all good," he says. "I'll take it any time."
Part of what's good, Justin says, is the "way they're learning so quickly . . . they'll listen to me . . . I might tell them to block a play this way and they'll say 'I gotcha', man' . . . they're a group with really big ears."
"He's running with good pad level," Sark says, "he's running behind his pads . . . he's explosive . . . and he's catching the ball."
USC returns to practice Thursday at Cromwell Field on campus in an open-to-the-public 3:30 p.m. session . . . one player was dinged up a bit in a spring that remains remarkably injury-free: redshirt sophomore Khaliel Rodgers who banged up his shoulder with Toa Lobendahn taking over his second-team offensive duties at center . . . JuJu was impressive after practice addressing a group of 50 to 60 players and coaches from Warren High in Downey about the need to work hard and take care of their classwork . . . the offense won the finishing portion of practice on this day.CHECK THIS OUT: More details on Tuesday's workout at TUESDAY SPRING DAY 10 GHOST NOTES.
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