USC Football: Top Performers from the Trojans' Spring Game
After a spirited Saturday that saw the Trojan defense flex its muscles against an offense that's still developing, the dust has settled from USC's spring game. Though it wasn't a scrimmage that told us a ton about what this team is capable of under new head coach Steve Sarkisian, it certainly showed which players have made the most of spring camp.
Because the Trojans are dealing with so many injuries, it gave younger athletes the opportunity to get quality reps and dig themselves out from being buried on the depth chart. Even some veterans stepped up, reaffirming their place in the Trojan lineup.
Position battles resume come the fall, and the performances put on in the spring game will undoubtedly have an impact on how those play out.
Listed from offense to defense, here are five Trojans in particular that impressed in the spring game.
QB Cody Kessler
If there was any question regarding Sark's choice to keep Cody Kessler as his starter, the junior quarterback answered it on Saturday.
Kessler showed a commanding presence and a firm grasp of the new offense, and looked more natural running at the heightened pace. The Trojans didn't throw a lot, but Kessler completed five of 10 passes for 86 yards on the day.
Max Browne showed off his impressive arm strength while Jalen Greene turned heads with his agility and and evasiveness, but neither led the offense with the skill that Kessler did. And that makes sense, given Kessler's advantage of having started for an entire season.
When Sark named Kessler the starter last week, he said he intended to keep the pressure on him and he expects there to be some competition in the fall. That said, Sark also made it clear that he sees Kessler as USC's starter when the season opens.
The offense will continue to take shape with Kessler at the helm, and we can look forward to an even more promising effort from him in August.
TE Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick
Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick was the only scholarship tight end available to USC this spring, so a starting job has essentially been his too lose. We hadn't seem much from him going into spring, and that was a problem for Cope-Fitzpatrick, as incoming freshman Bryce Dixon, the No. 2 tight end in his class, according to 247Sports, will be gunning for playing time come August.
Recognizing this, Cope-Fitzpatrick really stepped up during the spring, and on Saturday he further showed that he can be a versatile weapon in USC's new offense. Sarkisian's offense at Washington produced stellar tight ends light Austin Seferian-Jenkins, and Cope-Fitzpatrick has the physique and skill set to flourish in a similar manner.
In the spring game, Cope-Fitzpatrick turned heads with an impressive 30-yard reception, and he led all tight ends with three receptions for 56 yards.
It was a brief glimpse at his talents, but Cope-Fitzpatrick appears to be ready for more responsibility going forward.
LB Hayes Pullard
Like Kessler, Hayes Pullard's performance in the spring game was more about reaffirming his dominance than about outperforming the competition. His decision to stay at USC another season was a blessing for Sarkisian, and on Saturday, Pullard reminded him why.
He got the defense started in its collective strong performance by blowing through the offensive line and forcing a tackle for loss on third-and-goal during the opening drive, keeping the offense out of the end zone and forcing a field-goal attempt.
He patrolled the middle of the field the way you want a "Mike" linebacker to, reminding everyone that he will be one of the pillars of USC's defense in 2014.
CB Chris Hawkins
He's either competing to outright start or for a job in the rotation, but either way, cornerback Chris Hawkins is ready to transition from impressing on the practice field to impressing on game day.
In Saturday's scrimmage he stayed locked on his receiver, displaying excellent coverage skills. He disrupted a few plays and looked to be a capable complement to Kevon Seymour, who also shined by breaking up a few passes on his side of the field.
The jury is still out as to whether Hawkins will start in place of Josh Shaw, who could still move back to safety. Shaw was asked about it at the spring game, and confidently replied, per Neon Tommy Sports, that neither Hawkins nor Seymour will replace him.
If that ends up being the case, we can still expect that Hawkins will get lots of playing time this season, and that he is a true asset to USC's secondary.
K Andre Heidari
Scoring all of USC's points in the spring game, Andre Heidari had a surprisingly good performance on Saturday.
The kicker made four of five attempts, with a long of 44 yards. He looked pretty consistent, save for a blunder in missing a 34-yard attempt.
Trojan fans have a love-hate relationship with Heidari; on one hand he is the kicker who nailed the game-winning field goal over No. 5 Stanford in 2013, and on the other hand, he is the same kicker that has been largely inconsistent for two seasons.
On Saturday he showed improvement, which is promising. But if another option emerges that is equally consistent in the fall, Heidari could easily be fighting for his job.
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