After one day of practice leading the charge for USC, Cody Kessler feels calm, cool and relaxed about his new-found leadership role. "It's like he gave me the keys to the team, the keys to the car," Kessler admits about the excitement he has about taking his new-found leadership role on the Trojans offense.
About to embark upon his third game as the starting quarterback, the Bakersfield native is plenty aware of the bright lights and amped-up expectations coming his way this season. "His words to me were, 'Let's roll, let's get it.'" Kessler said about his initial conversation with Kiffin about taking the job. These same all business sentiments Kiffin added during his post-practice interview, remaining firmly in the moment about the work that lies ahead for this offense.
Taking a majority of the snaps under center on Tuesday, the redshirt sophomore approached practice with a different mindset, which reflected positively with the team along with the head coach behind the entire operation. "It helped him a lot, he got a lot more reps than what he normally gets," Lane Kiffin said. "Its obviously good for him and his comfort level, and you noticed a little more confidence out of him today."
Confidence is an interesting monster, and something the Trojans could definitely acquire following the worst statistical performance on offense in the Lane Kiffin head coaching era. "The way we played offense on Saturday was not USC football," Kessler pointed out about the 54 combined passing yards of offense mustered by his unit.
Battling with the ultra-competitive Max Wittek since the opening snap of Spring Ball all the way through Fall Camp and even the first two weeks of the season, the constant conversation and split repetitions began to take a tole on both players development. "I had that thought in my head, I can't mess up or you're not going to get the spot," Kessler said to the media on Tuesday. "Or 'You've got to make this play or you're not going to win the job.'"
Comments such as these open the door for the conversation over what separated the two quarterbacks and why at this point in the season. After matching Witek in terms of games started at USC, the numbers stemming from Fall Camp QBR all the way through the first two weeks slightly favor Kessler.
That being said, hearing the news from the horses mouth makes the recent promotion more valid and much more salvable for the entire Trojan fan base. While Kiffin shied away from discussing what separated one player over the other, he did dive into the strengths that Kessler will bring the table moving forward in a full-time capacity.
"Cody manages situations that nobody outside of our team would see," Kiffin said, before adding some individual facets of that skill set. "Whether that's audibles, things in the huddle, getting things fixed, or getting people aligned."
As the Trojans gear up for what Lane Kiffin calls a Stanford-like team in terms of physicality, their next opponent the Boston College Eagles, should present a stiff challenge Saturday. That being said, players and coaches alike recognize what truly lies ahead for this roster when all three phases click for an entire 60 minutes of football.
"If that is just normal (passing game), it is a totally different game and we are looking at a totally different situation," Kiffin said, referring to a passing game featuring the longest reception of merely eight yards on the night against Washington State. "We expect Cody to take charge Saturday and get us back on track." Something Trojan fans are certainly looking forward to at this point, with nowhere really to go but up on the offensive side of the ball.