After missing 2012 with a torn chest muscle, LB Kennard is looking to have a huge impact in 2013.
By RAHSHAUN HAYLOCKFS West
Some things you just can't fake. Like, for example, the happiness
Devon Kennard has whenever he steps onto the football field. And the joy he brings to practice every single day despite dealing with the rigors of training camp, which to a fifth-year senior like Kennard, could seem mundane.
But, the thought process for Kennard, No. 6 on our list of Keys to Success for USC in 2013, is much different than that.
"I'm just happy to be back on the field with my teammates," said Kennard, who hasn't played in an actual game since 2011.
Heading into the 2012 season opposite Wes Horton, Kennard was supposed to be the leader and one of the bookend veterans on an otherwise unproven defensive line.
Those plans were derailed once he tore a chest muscle, forcing him to undergo surgery that would cause him to miss the entire season.
As much as Kennard wants to step out on the field and make a tackle or revel in the excitement of sacking the quarterback, he won't allow himself to look ahead.
"I don't take any day for granted," he said.
So every time Kennard has taken to Howard Jones Field, or even the Coliseum in some instances for training camp, he's done so with an energy, focus and ferociousness that is looked upon by his Trojan teammates and admired by the coaching staff.
It doesn't hurt that most feel Kennard, now a standup rush end/linebacker, is now playing a position that fits him to a tee.
Importance of Kennard
Kennard checks in at No. 6 on our list because, for beginners, his leadership has been invaluable during camp.
You can point to Kennard as the player the rest of the defense rallies around. He injects enthusiasm and life into USC's revamped defense. His play on the field just adds to it as he's been a thorn in the side for the offense to this point.
"You have to know where he's at," said quarterback Cody Kessler.
Number of note: 4
Kennard has four sacks in his career. It would not be a shocker if he matched that total by time the Trojans wrap up the first third of their season.
USC was fourth in the country with 45 sacks last season, with Morgan Breslin and Leonard Williams combining for 21 of those. If Kennard can turn that two-headed attack into a three-headed monster, it could be a special year for the USC defense.
DNP: Season-ending chest surgery in July of 2012.
"I feel like this is a scheme that's great for me," Kennard said. "It just allows me to do everything I feel I'm capable of doing – rushing, dropping, and things like that."
USC defensive line coach Ed Orgeron: "Sometimes, those years off help. He was able to sit back and, I think, take a look at himself.
"He's almost like a coach on the field right now for us."
Orgeron is quick to remind those who ask about Kennard's progress in his new role that he has to do it in a real game. However, if camp is any indication of the output Kennard is going to have on Saturdays, he'll be wreaking havoc with the Pac-12's best as an all-conference performer.