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Monday, March 18, 2013
Five things we've learned in spring

By Garry Paskwietz

Cody Kessler, Max Wittek
Cody Kessler (6) is looking to leap past Max Wittek (13) and become USC's starting quarterback.

Through the first two weeks of spring practice, here are five things we've learned about the USC football team:

1. Cody Kessler is playing like a man looking for a starting spot: It was only a few short months ago, as the Trojans prepared for the Sun Bowl, that Max Wittek was the odds-on choice to replace Matt Barkley as the USC quarterback. Kessler responded to that talk by coming out strong in spring and taking advantage of a minor knee injury to Wittek by performing well with the extended reps. In the two spring scrimmages, Kessler is a combined 25 of 34 for 353 yards and one touchdown.

2. Front seven of the 5-2 looks solid: The adjustment to the 5-2 scheme under Clancy Pendergast is off to a good start, particularly along the front seven. The USC personnel fits very well here – from Leonard Williams at defensive tackle to Devon Kennard at the stand-up outside linebacker spot and Hayes Pullard at inside linebacker. There is not a ton of depth, but come fall, when everyone is expected to be healthy and the incoming freshmen arrive, there should be a solid two-deep at every spot.

3. Center spot is still unsettled: The big surprise on the opening day of spring was the sight of Max Tuerk at center. It made sense -- there was an opening and Tuerk is a versatile and talented player. There have been some bumps in the road with fumble snaps, however, and over the last two days the coaches have looked at Marcus Martin at center, where he played in practices leading up to the bowl game. Kiffin said both players will get a continued look after spring and, since they are two of the top five offensive linemen, whoever doesn’t start at center will likely be at left guard.

4. Nelson Agholor seems ready to be the next big playmaker at wide receiver: The Trojans have certainly been spoiled at the wide receiver spot in recent years with unique talents in Robert Woods and Marqise Lee, but it looks as if it won’t be a long wait for another big-time game-breaker. Agholor has put together a series of explosive plays through the first two weeks, including touchdowns of 75 and 43 yards in the two scrimmages.

5. Early entries have made a strong early impression: It was a much ballyhooed group of seven freshmen who enrolled at the spring semester and each of them has made a statement at some point in the first two weeks. The most consistent to play at a high level has been Su’a Cravens, leading Kiffin to compare him to Woods and Nickell Robey in terms of preparation and to note that both of those players started immediately.