It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

Video: DC Wilcox on USC's spring

April, 16, 2014
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Kevin Gemmell talks with Trojans defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox about how the players have responded to the new coaching staff and their expectations moving forward.
The spring evaluation period kicked off Tuesday, and the USC Trojans didn’t have to leave campus to recruit two of their top 2015 targets.


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ESPN 300: Top Pac-12 targets 

April, 16, 2014
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This recruiting cycle represents a huge year for talent in California, which means the Pac-12 should be able to put together some very healthy recruiting classes. In looking at the top five targets for the conference in the 2015 ESPN 300, it's no surprise that three come from Southern California. But if the Pac-12 wants to have a better overall finish in the recruiting rankings next year -- USC at No. 14 overall was the highest finish in 2014 -- the conference will need to reel in several out-of-area standouts, which is why the first two names on the list are here.


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It wasn’t a dramatic decision accompanied by great fanfare, but it was still notable that USC coach Steve Sarkisian named Cody Kessler the Trojans' starting quarterback after Tuesday’s practice.

[+] EnlargeCody Kessler
Ethan Miller/Getty ImagesCody Kessler, who threw for 2,968 yards and 20 TDs last season, will once again be running the USC offense after being named the starter on Tuesday.
Sarkisian had said last week that he was getting close to a decision and would likely make the announcement before the end of spring practice. There had been hints throughout the spring that Kessler would be keeping the job he held for the 2013 season, including when Sarkisian said that Kessler was improving at a faster pace than the top challenger, redshirt freshman Max Browne.

Considering that Kessler was the incumbent starter, if he was improving at a more rapid rate than Browne it was a fairly clear sign that Kessler was in the lead position to be named the starter. Still, until the actual word came down from Sarkisian there was always going to be a slight bit of uncertainty.

It wasn’t a huge surprise that Sarkisian made the announcement at this time. Even though the Trojans coach was clear to say that the players will still compete throughout the summer and into fall camp, Sarkisian has long stated a preference to have his starting quarterback in place by the end of spring, in large part to help that player transition into the leadership role in summer workouts.

For Kessler, being named the starter now is a contrast to what happened last year when Lane Kiffin didn’t name a starter until the third game of the season. Both Kessler and Max Wittek later admitted that was difficult for both quarterbacks.

One of the variables in the competition this spring was that the quarterbacks were learning a new up-tempo system that Sarkisian was installing, one that could run up to 120 plays each day in practice. Both players had worked out of the shotgun in similar systems in high school so there was some familiarity, but Sarkisian wanted to see them on the field with no preconceived expectations.

Kessler, who was told of the decision early Tuesday by offensive coordinator Clay Helton, went out and had one of his best practices of the spring later in the day. Sarkisian mentioned several reasons why he chose Kessler, ranging from decision-making to his presence in the locker room to his strong arm.

It was the natural choice to make as Kessler is simply more advanced than Browne is at this point, although it's clear that Browne has a bright future. For now though, Browne will have to continue to wait his turn as Kessler will hold on to his job as the starting quarterback of the Trojans.
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LOS ANGELES -- Cody KesslerUSC's incumbent starting quarterback, needed just 12 practices to convince new coach Steve Sarkisian that he should keep his job.

Prior to spring practice No. 13 on Tuesday, Sarkisian met with Kessler and backups Max Browne and Jalen Greene to inform them that Kessler would be the starter.

"I think he's extremely decisive from where he was in Week 1 in a new system to where he performed today," Sarkisian said. "He knows where he's going with the football. Are there some fundamentals and techniques we're going to continue to work on? Sure. But I think he's got a great deal of confidence. I love his leadership in the locker room with the players. He can throw the deep ball extremely well and he has enough athleticism to buy himself some time to create some plays down the field."

Kessler was locked in a quarterback competition in 2013 that spilled into the regular season before he finally claimed the job over Max Wittek. Kessler completed 236 of 361 passes for 2,968 yards with 20 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He posted a raw QBR of 59.7 with an adjusted QBR of 66.7 in guiding the Trojans to a 10-4 record and a victory in the Las Vegas Bowl, where he was named the game's MVP.

"I went in knowing that I have a year of experience and I know what it takes in big games to win and be successful," Kessler said. "I used that confidence and applied it to practice and treated every practice like a game."


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Some of the recruiting relationships the current USC coaching staff developed while at Washington proved beneficial following the move to Los Angeles. The Trojans signed Rahshead Johnson, Claudeson Pelon, Jonathan Lockett, John Plattenburg and Don Hill in 2014, all of whom had prior connections to the Huskies.

The rewards might continue with the Class of 2015.


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Pac-12's lunch links

April, 15, 2014
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I'm an early bird and I'm a night owl, so I'm wise and have worms.
As the Trojans prepare to wind down spring ball drills, there won’t be a clear-cut answer on whom will be starting at right guard in the fall.

Khaliel Rodgers has been working with the first unit throughout spring and has done a solid job. The redshirt freshman is known for his tenacious and aggressive nature, and he has made progress adjusting to USC's new up-tempo offense.

[+] EnlargeKhaliel Rodgers
AP Photo/Mark J. TerrillRedshirt freshman Khaliel Rodgers, a former ESPN 300 recruit, could start in 2014 for the Trojans.
By the time fall camp rolls around, however, there will be competition in the form of experienced senior Aundrey Walker. With 18 career starts under his belt -- including 10 last season at right guard -- Walker has to be considered a legitimate option, but he will also be coming off a broken ankle suffered in the regular season finale. That injury has forced him to sit out spring ball, which includes an important adjustment period to the speedy pace of play.

Walker has never been known as a player with a great work ethic so it will be interesting to see where his strength and conditioning is when he returns to practice. The fact that his injury is an ankle has prevented him from keeping up with conditioning, and there will be no real way to substitute for that until the ankle is ready. Walker is a big guy, listed on the USC roster at 6-foot-6 and 300 pounds, and that kind of frame will need some time to catch up to the work the other players are doing right now in order to get through 120 high-paced plays per day.

Of course, this is the final year of college eligibility for Walker, the last chance to impress the pro scouts for his potential career. Perhaps that will be the kind of carrot that will motivate him to show up ready to go from the moment fall camp arrives.

If Walker isn’t ready to go -- either with conditioning or with mental knowledge of the playbook -- Rodgers is continuing to make the coaches more and more comfortable with the thought of putting him on the field. That previous starting experience will be important for Walker, though, and you know the coaches will factor that into the equation, too.

WeAreSC caught up with Rodgers to get his thoughts as spring ball enters the final week:

Q: How is spring practice going so far?

A: It’s going great. Everyone is adjusting and doing great so far.

Q: What’s your weight at right now?

A: About 300 pounds.

Q: Is that the weight you’ve been trying to maintain through the spring?

A: Yeah, it’s been up and down a lot, been in the [200s], back up to [300], 310 but I’m 300 even right now.

Q: What’s it been like with [offensive line] Coach [Tim] Drevno?

A: It has been an awesome experience. He’s one of the greatest coaches to come out of the NFL. From the technique he teaches and overall, he’s a team coach and a great coach overall.

Q: How has moving around at guard been?

A: I’ve always been a guard, so moving me from left to right hasn’t been a major difference.

Q: You’ve been playing a lot with the first team, you feel pretty comfortable with that?

A: Yeah, me and the guys are gelling well. I took a lot of reps with them, with the first team, last year at practice. We were able to gel back then, so we are definitely gelling now.

Q: There was a lot of talk of you coming in and playing center, was that something you kind of wanted to do, or do you like it at guard better?

A: Whatever position Coach [Steve Sarkisian] wants me to be at, I’ll play.

Q: How much more prepared do you think you are with the redshirt year under your belt?

A: I’m more prepared just knowing the game, sitting back for a whole year and just watching how the game’s being played. Just football knowledge, I gained a lot of football knowledge.

Q: What’s the scheme been like for you? How different has it been with Sark in there?

A: It is totally different, but it is a scheme that will win games for sure, so we are definitely adjusting.

Q: For you specifically, what has been the difference for you? The protections, the calls, is all that different?

A: Wider splits, up tempo, fast, you’ve got to think faster. Everything is fast, that’s how you’ve got to win games now. Football is evolving and we got to be fast.

Q: Do you like the up-tempo style?

A: Definitely. It kills the morale of the defense.

Q: Is there any issues with conditioning for you as far as the up tempo goes?

A: We all have to get used to it as a team, but we are almost to the end of spring, so we are starting to get used to it now.

Q: You guys are running about 120 plays during practice, do you feel pretty good afterwards or are the last few plays hard?

A: It is definitely a lot of work put in so it’s not a bad feeling, but just to know that you can say you ran 120 plays, that’s a great accomplishment in practice.

Q: What do you think the quarterbacks have looked like back there?

A: All of my QBs are great. They’ve done an excellent job this whole spring.

Q: Max Browne came in with you in your class, what do you think of him so far?

A: Max, he works hard, he’s a work horse, in the film room especially. He’s always in the film room and the weight room, he always puts the extra time in. He’s a great guy.

Q: And you came in with Kenny Bigelow too, you get to face off against him. From the same high school, do you guys talk a lot about that?

A: Nah, high school is done with, it’s just like same ol' same ol', we go against each other all the time.
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After a recent rise into the top 10 overall, defensive end Byron Cowart of Armwood (Seffner, Fla.) joins ESPN's Matt Schick to discuss recruiting and the new ESPN 300.
ESPN's Todd McShay released his Mock Draft 4.0 Insider on Friday, but unlike the first three, this one included projections for the second round to go along with the first.

If things were to play out how McShay envisions, the Pac-12 would account for just three first-round picks. The surprise there is not the amount, but who is not included -- UCLA OLB/DE Anthony Barr.

After projecting Barr at No. 7 in his first mock draft in December, McShay had him at No. 11 in versions 2.0 and 3.0. This time? All the way to the second round at No. 36 to the Oakland Raiders.

It's long been assumed the UCLA pass rusher was the obvious candidate to be the first Pac-12 player taken, but the torch -- at least in this instance -- has been passed to Oregon State receiver Brandin Cooks at No. 18 to the Jets. McShay's previous forecast had USC receiver Marqise Lee in that spot, but now he has Lee joining former Oregon coach Chip Kelly in Philadelphia at No. 22.

McShay notes:
Lee did some serious damage to Chip Kelly's Oregon teams in 2011 and 2012, with a combined 20 catches for 344 yards and three touchdowns.

UCLA offensive guard Xavier Su'a-Filo is tagged for former USC coach Pete Carroll and the Super Bowl champion Seahawks at No. 32.

Seven players from the Pac-12 were projected to go in the second round, and a notable running back from the conference is on the board after the first two rounds.
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WeAreSC's Blair Angulo caught up with ESPN 300 WR Equanimeous St. Brown on Sunday at the IMG 7v7 West Regional to get the latest on his recruitment.

Houston talks Trojans

April, 14, 2014
Apr 14
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ESPN 300 LB John Houston Jr. took time out at the IMG 7v7 West Regional on Sunday to talk to WeAreSC's Blair Angulo about how the recruiting process is coming along, and specifically, his thoughts regarding USC.

DL Kenny Bigelow making progress 

April, 14, 2014
Apr 14
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So much has been expected from USC defensive lineman Kenny Bigelow, you’d think his name should already have been etched alongside such former Trojans D-line greats as Shaun Cody, Sedrick Ellis and Mike Patterson.

A mountain of a man at 6-foot-4 and 315 pounds, Bigelow came to Troy in the spring of 2013 with “Conquest” blaring and projections of greatness, having graduated a semester early from Elkton (Md.) Eastern Christian Academy.

A household name in recruiting circles for years, Bigelow was expected to step right in as a freshman and contribute, but sometimes those projections from the recruiting gurus don’t come to fruition.


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