LOS ANGELES — While Max Wittek’s 2012 season may be best remembered for giving USC fans the first glimpse of what life will be like after Matt Barkley, last season for Cody Kessler may be best remembered as a rather bizarre one.
Kessler made a splash when he came into a game on special teams wearing uniform No. 35 and not his usual No. 6, clearly deceiving Colorado as the Trojans executed a two-point conversion in a win. (The NCAA has since made a rule change saying that officials must be alerted of any player changing his uniform number during a game).
Kessler was the holder on USC special teams and was the backup to Barkley’s backup last season.
This spring he’s vying to become Barkley’s successor. To do so, he’ll have to create some separation between himself and Wittek. (Max Browne is in the conversation as well but has a lot of ground to make up as a true freshman.)
If you ask USC head coach Lane Kiffin, Kessler and Wittek have been in a virtual lock since this time last year.
Even when Wittek was named the No. 2 quarterback last fall, Kiffin wouldn’t allow himself to say the former Mater Dei star won the position over Kessler, but that Wittek would simply be the guy to “go in first” if Barkley had to come out for any reason.
This time around, Kiffin contends there is still no general separation. The two continue to share first-team reps.
Kessler, for his part, is trying not to consume himself with winning the job to be the starter, per se, instead choosing to focus on the process and getting better each day.
“I just come out and take it day-to-day and think I need to do better than I did the practice before (or) I need to improve on this or work on this,’” Kessler said. “That’s just been my main focus this whole time. I don’t try to let some of that outside stuff or those factors just get in my head and mess with me.”
When the coaching staff is asked about Kessler, there are no knocks on his presence in the huddle. There are no knocks on his ability to run the offense. There is also no commitment on if he’ll be the starter or someone else.
By all accounts, he’s having a good spring, as he feels he should be entering his third year. Overall, he says this spring has been “really smooth” for him especially when he has a chance to lead the starters.
“It’s nice to go with the ones and get that connection and get that rhythm going,” Kessler said. “I feel like in the scrimmages when I do go with the ones, I feel that smooth connection, that rhythm that we get in, definitely.
“It doesn’t matter (which group) you’re in with, you just have to make the most of your opportunities.”
Sooner or later, we’ll all know who’ll be going with the ones this fall.