USC Football: Can Cody Kessler Become an Elite Quarterback in 2014?


In 2013, Cody Kessler’s progression as a quarterback coincided with USC’s impressive second half of the season and culminated in an MVP-earning performance against Fresno State in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl.

Trojan fans are hoping there is more of that to come from the redshirt junior, but does Kessler have what it takes to throw his name in among the elite quarterbacks in the Pac-12, let alone the entire nation?

The Reign of Troy staff takes a stab at answering that question in today’s roundtable:

Michael Castillo:

I think so. One of my favorite storylines of the 2013 season was watching the progression of Cody Kessler from an extremely timid and handcuffed rookie, to a seemingly experienced quarterback both aware of, and confident in his abilities.

He completed 70 percent of his passes in November, and his play against Stanford was borderline phenomenal when you consider how poor Kessler looked early on in the season.

He was head and shoulders above Max Browne in the spring, and looking at how the Sarkisian HUNH revitalized Keith Price last year at Washington, Kessler looks poised to take yet another step forward.

Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The new system fits his skill set perfectly, as a sneakily mobile accurate passer that maybe doesn’t have the arm strength of a Carson Palmer or Mark Sanchez.

With the addition of a slot receiver to the passing game, and new weapons like Steven Mitchell, JuJu Smith and Adoree’ Jackson, Kessler should undoubtedly have better support around him despite losing Marqise Lee.

That is…if he can get enough time to find those receivers. A lot will depend at how the Trojans’ offensive line can product Kessler, as USC replaces two starters on the offensive line including center Marcus Martin.

Should the youthful offensive line perform ahead of expectations, Kessler could be a household name come December. If not, it will at least be a surefire test of his progression as a cerebral quarterback.

Josh Webb:

He can.

Much of his development is going to depend on the protection he gets up front and how healthy his receiving corps can remain. He showed flashes of brilliance last year, but also showed some poor decision-making down the stretch.

USC will be switching to a new offense this year and it’s an offense that should favor Kessler’s strengths.

Odd as it may seem, Kessler is a guy who is very accurate on the run and works best outside the pocket. There are flashes of Mark Sanchez in Cody Kessler and we’re talking USC Sanchez, not butt-fumble Sanchez.

Kessler has the ability and the talent around him to become one of the best quarterbacks in the nation in 2014. That said, there are plenty of talented quarterbacks around the country and Kessler is going to have to improve week in and week out if he wants to take a step towards elite.

Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Elite is a pretty special word and Kessler has a couple miles to go before he reaches that status, but it’s definitely well within reach for the Bakersfield native.

Alicia de Artola:

Elite? I’m not sure. Very good? Absolutely.

Kessler may have the scrambling ability of Mark Sanchez but he’s got the overall feel of a John David Booty. Steady but rarely spectacular.

I don’t expect Kessler to put the team on his back and carry USC to victory. He is a game manager who does a good job putting the ball in the hands of his playmakers.

In short, I’m not convinced he has the capacity to work his way into the Heisman conversation, which is where I set my elite bar.

Having said that, I am a huge fan of Kessler and let’s not forget that Booty had a decorated career as a USC quarterback even as he fell short of legends like Matt Leinart and Carson Palmer.

Efficiency is the name of the game for Kessler. It may not be sexy, but it most certainly wins games, which is what we all want to see anyways.