USC defensive end Devon Kennard never wanted to go to Arizona State for college, he said this week, but the Phoenix native is plenty excited about returning home this week to play the Sun Devils.
He'll have 20-plus friends and family members in attendance at Sun Devil Stadium watching him work to get his first sack of the 2011 season, a figure that's eluded him so far this year and frustrated him to the max. And, if he needed any further motivation, it's also the Trojans' first road game of the year and a certifiable indicator for how the rest of their season will go.
"I've had it on my schedule for a long time," Kennard said Thursday. "I'm excited. It's my last opportunity to play in Phoenix, and I know the coaching staff well, a lot of players, a lot of family and friends there, so I'm excited."
Kennard said he'll start Saturday's game, the next step in USC's defensive end rotation. He and Wes Horton are alternating games in the starting lineup across from Nick Perry. Neither Kennard nor Horton have recorded a sack through three games; Perry has two sacks but planned on getting more.
A pass-happy Arizona State offense might provide a good chance to get on the board in that category.
"I've played well so far," Kennard said. "I've got a lot of pressure on the quarterbacks and came really close to some sacks. I don't have any sacks yet, so this will be a great opportunity for me. They throw the ball a lot and they have a good throwing attack, so it'll give me the opportunity to get some sacks."
Kennard's one of two scholarship players on the USC roster hailing from Arizona, the other being true freshman guard Cyrus Hobbi, a Scottsdale native. Both high schools -- Desert Vista for Kennard and Saguaro for Hobbi -- are about a 20-minute drive from Sun Devil Stadium.
As for actually attending Arizona State, Kennard said he was recruited heavily by Dennis Erickson and the Sun Devils but could never bring himself to seriously consider it. He committed to USC and Pete Carroll his junior year of high school and never strayed from that commitment.
"They wanted me bad," Kennard said Thursday. "But no."