The three Trojan picks in the 2016 NFL Draft on Friday, Su’a Cravens, Cody Kessler and Max Tuerk, each found USC football connections in their new teams.
Day 2 of the 2016 NFL Draft held a few surprises for USC football’s three selections, but Trojan connections were woven through each pick.
Su’a Cravens was chosen in the second round by the Washington Redskins, a club on the other side of the country, but there will be at least one familiar face on hand when the Trojan linebacker touches down in D.C.
Washington defensive coordinator Joe Barry, once a linebackers coach at USC in 2010, actually recruited Cravens as a young high school student.
Barry never got the chance to coach Cravens because he left for the San Diego Chargers before the 2011 season. Now he’ll be an integral figure in this stage of Cravens’ football development as the Trojan looks to fill a role as the Redskin’s dime linebacker.
“Me and him built a relationship before he left,” Cravens told Master Tesfatsion of the Washington Post. “He knows my family inside and out, so I got a real good feel for him.”
The defensive coordinator actually left his family vacation to catch Cravens’ performance at USC’s Pro Day, according to USC Athletics, though Cravens told ESPN 980 that the selection surprised him because he hadn’t spoken to anyone from the Redskins organization since a brief meeting at the NFL Combine.
That was not the case of USC quarterback Cody Kessler, who forged a strong relationship with the Cleveland Browns before they picked him in the third round.
Jan 13, 2016; Berea, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns new head coach Hue Jackson talks during a press conference at the Cleveland Browns training facility. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Kessler had a meeting with the Browns in Cleveland in March and raved about the connection he felt with the organization.
“Honestly, I was kind of sitting there waiting and I knew they had a lot of picks and I kind of just kept talking to my family and my agent was sitting there and I was just hoping,” Kessler told ClevelandBrowns.com. “I was hoping it would be Cleveland and I was excited every time their name came up, and it worked. I’m very blessed and very thankful to be heading to Cleveland.”
New Browns head coach Hue Jackson shared Kessler’s excitement during Cleveland’s press conference announcing their draft picks, praising his exceptional accuracy — a trait Jackson said he values above all else.
There’s also a notable link between USC and Jackson. He served as the Trojans’ offensive coordinator for four years in the 1990s. Though that was before Kessler’s time, Jackson was as unequivocal in his defense of the Trojan quarterback as the right choice for the Browns despite questioning of the third round grade as you might expect from someone who had coached Kessler directly.
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“The guy has had a tremendous career,” Jackson said. “I understand where everyone is coming from but you’ve got to trust me on this one. This is a guy that we feel very comfortable with and we think he’s going to have an opportunity to ascend.”
USC’s final draft pick of Day 2 was greeted with similar talks of ascension, though Max Tuerk’s opportunity to battle for a starting job with the San Diego Chargers is expected to come quite a bit sooner.
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General Manager Tom Telesco and head coach Mike McCoy repeatedly stated their intention to have Tuerk in the thick of things at center as soon as rehab on his torn ACL is completed.
That’s no surprise considering Tuerk’s status as one of the potential steals of the draft. While Kessler’s third round selection was met with skepticism, Tuerk’s was roundly praised.
“Max is a player that, if he didn’t hurt his knee this year he would have been long gone before we picked so we’re lucky to add [him],” Telesco said during the Chargers’ Day 2 press conference.
There’s no direct USC connection for Tuerk like there is with the former Trojan assistants and Cravens or Kessler, but the location could hardly have put the offensive lineman more at home. He grew up in Trabuco Canyon, went to college in Los Angeles and now gets to begin his professional life in Southern California.