Linebackers liking their No. 1 ranking

Also Cody Kessler talks -- a little -- about his time away last week at Elite 11 in Oregon and

They are the best linebacking group in the country, Phil Steele says. And neither Su'a Cravens nor Anthony Sarao sees a problem with that preseason pick.

Does USC deserve such a high place this season?

"I think we do," senior Sarao said Tuesday, in his return starter's role that finds him surrounded by a lot more bodies this year -- featuring returning injured veterans like Lamar Dawson and Jabari Ruffin and a whole host of talented freshmen.

"We've got 18 linebackers," Sarao says. "If you're looking at our [linebacker] room, I'm thinking there's no coach in the country, including the SEC, who wouldn't trade for our roster."

"I think that would be accurate," Cravens said. "We have so many guys who can do so many things."

That means, Cravens said, when USC faces a power team, they can line up the "250-pound power guys" and yet have plenty of "the 215-, 220-pounders to play against the Pac-12 spreads.

"It's great to have so many numbers, to be able to go so deep in our depth from Scott Starr [Felix] and Porter [Gustin] to Osa [Masina] and John Houston," Cravens said.

Lots of competition to get on the field. "It's going to be very exciting," Cravens said. And that's just for practice.

Cody getting back to business

Cody Kessler, on his return to practice after more than a week away at the Elite 11 at Nike in Oregon and then to Louisiana for the Manning Passing Academy over the weekend, begged off talking about his travel adventures.

"I do apologize," Cody said, "but I don't want to talk about it since that's about me. I just want to talk about this team, about how do we win games. That's what's important to me."

But Cody would talk a bit. No, he just wasn't a camp counselor for all those high school prospects at both places. He was a player - working hard to improve.

"It was awesome," Cody said, getting insights into his game from the likes of Trent Dilfer at the Elite 11 and the Mannings.

It wasn't just about teaching campers. "It was about getting better," Cody said. "I probably threw a thousand passes."

TUESDAY QUICK TAKES: Not so early a start with Tuesday's 6 a.m. Team Run lasting past 7:30 and the throwing session getting going by 7:40 . . . With player physicals for upperclassmen and orientation for some of the new freshmen, the 60 or so players who made it to the session was the fewest all year . . . no Lamar Dawson, Osa Masina, Kevon Seymour for starters among a number of others . . . And some had to leave early as well . . . final three players to stay behind to run routes and work on the Juggs mahine were Deontay Burnett and tight ends Cyrus Hobbi and Connor Spears . . . Blueshirt Burnett keeps making plays wth the catch of the day on an acrobatic one-footed grab from Kessler although the consistent big catcher on this day was Isaac Whitney who just seems to keep getting better . . . after practice, WR Ajene Harris came by on crutches walking pretty well after his second hip cartilage surgery, this time on his left hip, Friday . . . he'll be off the crutches by next week, Harris says . . . Doing the weight numbers -- Toa Lobendahn says he's up to 290 and plans to hold it there through fall practice . . . John Plattenburg, Jonathan Lockett and Matt Lopes with picks Tuesday as the secondary hung in there despite missing a number of key elements and going with just two corners . . . Most fun of the day came in a debate between OT Banner and OLB Cravens, who Zach charged with ignoring the line of scrimmage on a couple of speed rushes . . . "You are offsides every single play," Zach said to Su'a. "There's the line of scrimmage. It's there for a reason," he said with a sweep of his foot . . . Su'a rebutted that after practice saying he's going so fast with a running start it just looks like he's offsides.

CHECK THIS OUT: For more details and play-by-play on Tuesday's workout, check out TUESDAY JULY THROWING SESSION 3 GHOST NOTES.

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