During his first spring practice as USC’s head coach, Steve Sarkisian decided every position was open, including the quarterback position.
Since then, Cody Kessler won the competition going away. As the incumbent, Kessler certainly had the upper hand over his younger counterparts, Max Browne and Jalen Greene. It was a new offense to everyone involved, but the experience of being a starter definitely was in Kessler’s favor. Now for the first time in his collegiate career, Kessler is breezing through a fall camp in which he’s not immersed in some sort of quarterback battle.
Strengths: Kessler was recruited as a Division I point guard coming out of high school. Sarkisian compares Kessler’s ability to find the open man on the hardwood to what Kessler can do on the gridiron. Furthermore, the head coach loves Kessler’s quick hands. In Sark’s offense, Kessler’s aforementioned skills will be pivotal for the Trojans to play at a high tempo, as he quickly can get the ball out of his hands to the open man, similar to how he would run a fast break.
Weaknesses: Going back to the spring, there’s been a huge emphasis on the USC coaching staff for all the quarterbacks to better anticipate throws, including Kessler. Instead of throwing receivers open, Kessler and others would wait for them to get open. Kessler is improving in that area. Through fall camp, he’s completing 70 percent of his passes, according to the USC coaching staff.
Key stat: 14. Kessler made 14 starts last season, his first season as a starter, leading the team to 10 wins and their first bowl victory in five years.
Quotable: "Keith Price had really quick hands in our system and threw accurately, and I think Cody can do the same thing," Sarkisian said.
Mitchell working back into shape after missing ’13 season.
Final thoughts: FOX Sports recently rated Kessler as the fifth most underrated quarterback in the country. In a conference that is loaded with quarterbacks, Kessler flies under the radar. However, the former Army All-American is no slouch. He might not have the legs of UCLA’s Brett Hundley or the accuracy of Oregon’s Marcus Mariota, but he can use his legs as a weapon if pressed. And when it comes to quarterbacks, he’s in the upper echelon of the conference. He reminds Sarkisian of former USC quarterback Mark Sanchez, a one-time Parade All-American, who, like Kessler, had to wait his turn to start. With a year as a starter now under his belt, look for Kessler to become the quarterback many people thought he would be coming out of high school.