LOS ANGELES -- With USC’s highly anticipated clash at Stanford coming up Saturday, the Trojans took part in an intense, full-pads practice Tuesday. As the early morning session got underway, however, it became clear that one pivotal player was missing -- quarterback Cody Kessler.
Making his way onto Brian Kennedy-Howard Jones Field midway through the workout, Kessler was suited up but did not participate. Following practice USC head coach Steve Sarksian said that the reigning Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week had a procedure performed on his toe on Tuesday morning that ultimately kept him on the sideline, before adding that he anticipates him returning to action on Wednesday.
“He had a deal with his toe that had been bothering him throughout the ball game, and we felt like we wanted to take care of it sooner rather than later,” Sarkisian said. “This morning was the first chance we could have a procedure done to get it, in our opinion, cleaned up. We expect him to be full-go tomorrow and to be ready to go for the game.”
Kessler called the procedure “minor,” and he appeared to have no doubt in his mind that he will return on Wednesday. In his absence Tuesday, redshirt freshman Max Browne ran the Trojans’ No. 1 offensive unit.
Browne, who completed 3 of 4 passes for 30 yards against Fresno State, performed solidly for the most part during Tuesday’s workout, although he did throw two interceptions.
“Max went in and played, and we really didn’t skip a beat,” Sarkisian said. “I thought he looked really good. Now, there were some things where there were some plays that we haven’t run in a while where details were off a little bit, but all-in-all I thought Max had a really good practice.”
Sarkisian said that, despite missing a day of game-week preparations for Stanford, he doesn’t anticipate Kessler falling behind the curve.
“We’re not putting anything in that we haven’t repped in training camp or even into last week, so Cody will be very comfortable with the game plan,” Sarkisian said. “He’s gotten a lot of reps. That’s part of the beauty of going up-tempo and getting the number of reps that we get in training camp and in a practice -- is that the quarterbacks are very comfortable with what we’re doing.”
More injury news
Defensive lineman Leonard Williams went to the sideline late in practice after rolling an ankle, but Sarkisian said that it doesn’t appear to be serious.
Starting right guard Damien Mama went down near the end of practice, clutching his right leg/knee and remaining on the ground for a few minutes. The big freshman did ultimately walk off the field under his own power, and Sarkisian said that he thought that Mama “got more scared than anything else.”
Tre Madden (turf toe) did not participate in practice, but he also didn’t have the boot on that he’s been wearing recently.
“I was visiting with Tre today,” Sarkisian said. “He is not 100 percent healthy yet, but he is much improved.”
Offensive lineman Khaliel Rodgers (knee) suited up and took extensive reps with the No. 2 offense at left guard.
Offensive lineman Aundrey Walker suited up and took some reps with the No. 2 offense at left tackle.
Linebacker Lamar Dawson suited up but did not participate in the majority of practice.
No ill-feelings between Sarkisian and Shaw
Following Washington’s 31-28 loss to Stanford last season, Sarkisian -- then the Huskies’ head coach -- and Cardinal head coach David Shaw made headlines after they went back-and-forth following Sarkisian accusation that Shaw's players had faked injuries to slow down UW's up-tempo offensive attack.
Despite the disagreement between the two, Sarkisian said that he and Shaw are on good terms.
“It was in the heat of the moment,” Sarkisian said. “David and I addressed it over the next couple of days, and we moved on.
“Oddly enough David and I, and our wives were together in Hawaii this spring, so we’re in a good place. We’re competitive, we both want to win, we both want to win Saturday, and so we’re going to battle and compete this week and all day Saturday to try to win the game, which we should do: That’s why we’re in the position we are. And when the game is done, the game is done. There may be a disagreement Saturday as well, but that’s part of the business we’re in. That doesn’t affect our personal lives when we move out of that competitive forum.”