USC Football: Q&A With Devon Kennard


Sep 10, 2011; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans defensive end Wes Horton (96), defensive tackle Antwaun Woods (99) and defensive end Devon Kennard (42) react after a sack against the Utah Utes at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. USC defeated Utah 17-14. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PRESSWIRE

With the season around the corner and summer workouts underway, we chatted with USC Trojans defensive end Devon Kennard about the upcoming season and his role as a veteran and team leader.

Reign of Troy: What are your goals for the 2012?

Devon Kennard: I’m just focused on being an impact player for my team. Just making plays for my team and I think after that everything will take care of itself, at the end of the season.

RoT: Have you talked to your dad (former NFL lineman for the Dallas Cowboys) about preparing for the NFL?

Kennard: I have, and he has given me good insight. But, I’ve always given the game the respect it deserves so im not worried about it right now. Im just focused on helping my team win and when I get there, I get there.

RoT: In USC’s first season back from a two-year bowl ban, you guys are expected to make it to either the Rose Bowl or the National Championship. Does this put any additional pressure on you to have an incredible season?

Kennard: I don’t feel any pressure because I feel like nothing is guaranteed. There’s a lot of talk about what we can do this year but we have to prove it. Just because we are ranked high doesn’t determine what we are going to be. So I just want to take it one day at a time and see where it takes us.

RoT: It’s likely that to get to the National Championship, USC will have to beat Oregon twice. Last year, we saw LSU and Alabama face off twice, and they split victories. Is this something you have considered at all?

Kennard: We have to get to that point, but we do have to play them once and it’s hard to beat any team twice. We beat them last year but they beat us in the two years before. But our goal is to win that [first] week, and if we are fortunate enough to play them again in the Pac-12 championship then we will have to beat them again. It will be a challenge but I feel this team is ready for it.

RoT: On Monday, the NCAA came down hard on Penn State for its cover-up of a sex abuse scandal. Having gone through tough sanctions yourself, what is some advice you would give the players?

Kennard: I just hope they understand there’s nothing they can do about it. They need to focus on just playing football, being the best players and the best team they can be. If they focus on the negativity, it will hurt them in the end, but if they worry about themselves they can help that storied program get back on its feet.

RoT: What was your initial reaction to them?

Kennard: I thought it was a complicated situation, but I feel for the fans and the players because the feeling of being sanctioned, I know what that is like.

RoT: You are one of the guys on the team that interacts on Twitter, and you are always tweeting positive, uplifting messages. Do you use social media to be an influence for the younger guys on the team?

Kennard: I think it sets an example of how you should interact with social media, especially at a program like this. You got kids following you, and people really interested in you as a player and you as a person. It’s a huge responsibility, and I think other athleres should always keep that in mind when they interact on social media.

RoT: You are of the older, more experienced guys on this USC squad. What does being a team leader mean to you?

Kennard: It means teaching the younger guys “The Trojan Way”. Showing them how we do things at USC and that we wont accept anything less than that standard. We have a talented team but it’s understanding with that talent comes work. And we have to be accountable to each other and to the coaches and that’s the first part. Then it’s helping them along the way with class and with football so they can be ready when their time comes.

RoT:What are some things you and the defense are looking to work on in Fall Camp?

Kennard: As a D Line, just working on the basics and getting better on what we do every day. We have some younger guys on the inside so me and Wes are going to take charge and lead the unit. Everything starts with us and we know that, and understand that. So we just have to put it together and have a great year. For me, I just want to leave college showing my play-making ability. I’ve just gone through my first offseason completely healthy, and I just want to get better from here. I am working on all aspects of my play and all D-line techniques and this will really benefit me as a player.

RoT: Have any of the incoming freshman stood out to you thus far?

Kennard: I think the freshman class is full of talent. When the pads come on and the bullets are flying, you will see who is ready and who is not, so right now its kind of early to tell. But [WR] Nelson Agholor and [DE] Leonard Williams, I do think they will be great players in the future.

RoT We have seen many defensive ends become 3-4 outside linebackers in the pros, most recently former Trojan Nick Perry, who is now with Green Bay. Do you think you are ready to make that transition, if you needed to?

Kennard: Right now im playing left defensive end for USC and that’s all I’m worried about, but I can most definitely be that in the NFL. When the time comes I will be given my opportunity, but right now I am focused on being left defensive end.

RoT: Your senior class has been through an incredible amount of adversity since you arrived on campus in 2009. What does it mean to have emerged on top of it all, and to have done it together?

Kennard: To be in the position we’re in is a blessing. Just having this opportunity our senior year to go out wth a major impact and what we are about, with all we have been through and all we have done. To be able to do that is more than we can ask for, but exactly what we hoped for. And things couldn’t have worked out better. Now we just have to focus each week and take everyone’s best shot and give them ours.

Tomorrow, we will run part two of our interview with Kennard, where you will get to see a more fun, light-hearted side of him, in our “Hang Time” Feature.