Spring game was better than last

first_imgAnother spring game is in the books for the USC football team, and it appears there is much to look forward to when the program returns for the season in the fall. The spring period is always welcome, as it provides a small sampling of next year’s squad while briefly breaking up the very difficult eight-month period without any college football.This year was no exception, as Trojan fans across the country paid close attention to the development of underclassmen to see who might start next season. Many key players from last year dominated in the spring, demonstrating improved skillsets across the board especially on offense.Quarterback Cody Kessler, who put up great statistics last season, looks more mobile and fluid in his movements. A former high school basketball star, Kessler came into USC heralded as somewhat of a dual threat. Though no one was confusing him with Braxton Miller when he was recruited, he was evaluated as a new age quarterback and fellow quarterback recruit Max Wittek fit the more traditional drop back role.In his two seasons at the helm, Kessler hasn’t really displayed much mobility. Occasionally, he has made some big plays with his feet that show his athleticism does actually live up the hype. For the most part, however, it seems as if his bulky knee brace keeps him situated in the pocket. There is no question Kessler can move, and if he is even fleeter footed this year than he was last, it will add an entirely new dimension to the USC offense.The Trojans don’t need him to be Marcus Mariota back there, but if defenses have to respect his running ability, Steve Sarkisian’s up-tempo downhill running scheme can operate on full cylinders. Keith Price, who was the quarterback under Sarkisian at Washington, wasn’t as good of a running quarterback as his predecessor Jake Locker, but he was still a threat to run. This kept defenses honest and allowed the Huskies skill position players to excel.If Kessler can occupy the attention of an extra linebacker on every play, it can open up lanes for Justin Davis and Tre Madden, as well as seam routes for whoever ends up playing tight end, much like it did for running back Bishop Sankey and tight end Austin               Sefarian-Jenkins at Washington.In addition to Kessler, wide receiver JuJu Smith appears to have taken the next step in his development as a wide receiver. Smith, who dominated older cornerbacks as a freshman last season, has sharpened his route running skills and has taken over the role of number one option from departed receiver Nelson Agholor. If Smith continues to demonstrate the manic work ethic he has become known for in the past year, he will go down as one of the greatest wide receivers to play at USC.He has a rare combination of power and speed that is more impressive at his current stage of development than Robert Woods, Marqise Lee and Agholor had entering their respective sophomore seasons. All three had excellent careers as Trojans and came on strong during their sophomore years. It will be interesting to see if Smith can match or eclipse their sophomore campaigns.Though Smith will be the primary target, there are a bevy of other options to also throw to. Redshirt sophomore Steven Mitchell has been amazing this spring. Mitchell, who dominated the Los Angeles high school circuit at Bishop Alemany in the San Fernando Valley, has finally recovered from the ACL injury that sidelined him for a full season. If he can stay healthy, he will be a presence during the season.Flanking Mitchell will be sophomore Ajene Harris, who came on strong as a true freshman during the early part of last season. Though injuries and some troubles learning the entire playbook slowed him down, Harris is a dynamic threat who can make plays in space. As showcased in the spring game, Harris also played quarterback in high school at Crenshaw and can be used to carry out a trick play or two during the season.These are only a couple of the players who impressed during the spring. Though the team is still not at full strength, it was a promising set of practices for the future of Trojan football. One should never set their hopes too high after the spring, but it’s good to remain cautiously optimistic with the team the Trojans look to put out on the field next season.last_img read more

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