USC’s Cody Kessler quietly putting up impressive numbers


It’s hard to believe that a player from tradition-rich USC is flying under the Heisman radar — we can think of one who wishes he was, though — but that’s the case with Cody Kessler.

In a game that kicked off after nine ET on a weekday so most of you likely missed it and partially explains the under-the-radar thing, Kessler played a significant role in leading USC to a 38-30 win over Cal Thursday night.  Kessler completed over 70 percent of his passes (31-42) for 371 yards and four touchdowns.

Yes, Kessler threw an interception, but its was just his third of the season in 339 attempts.  Just three other quarterbacks — Northern Illinois’ Drew Hare (1 INT, 207 attempts), Oregon’s Marcus Mariota (2 INTs, 277 attempts), Cal’s Jared Goff (4 INTs, 419 attempts) –have a comparable interception percentage among quarterbacks with at least 200 attempts.

On the season, Kessler has now tossed 29 touchdown passes; he entered Week 12 tied for eighth in the country with 25.  His passing efficiency of 168.2 was fourth behind only Mariota (184.6), Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett (172.9) and Colorado State’s Garrett Grayson (171.7).

Kessler is now completing just over 70 percent of his passes on the season for 2,919 yards, 29 touchdowns and three interceptions with two games plus the postseason to go.  How does that compare to USC’s last two Heisman-winning quarterbacks?  Very favorably, actually.

  • Carson Palmer: 63.2 completion percentage for 3,942 yards, 33 touchdowns, 10 interceptions on 489 attempts in 2002
  • Matt Leinart: 65.3 completion percentage for 3,322 yards, 33 touchdowns, six interceptions on 412 attempts in 2004

Again, Kessler compares very favorably statistically to Leinart and Palmer, and yet Bovada doesn’t even give him Heisman odds in its latest release.  Why?  Kessler’s Trojans are 7-3 and haven’t been ranked in the Top 25 since mid-October.  Palmer’s Trojans spent the last half of the 2002 season — when the Heisman hype train really starts chugging along — inside of the Top 10 in a two-loss season that would ultimately result in an Orange Bowl appearance and No. 4 final ranking.

Leinart and his teammates were on another level in 2004, going wire-to-wire as the top-ranked team in the country.

The team success, to go along with the brash and bravado that personified Pete Carroll‘s USC teams, is something Kessler simply doesn’t have and can’t replicate.  He does, though, to deserve at least some spot in the Heisman conversation.

Arizona State confirms Boise State’s Zak Hill as new OC

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At the end of the regular season, Herm Edwards fired the bulk of Arizona State’s offensive staff. Nearly two weeks later, the reshaping of the assistants on that side of the ball has commenced in earnest.

Following up on speculation that had been growing in recent days, ASU on Saturday announced that Zak Hill has been hired as Edwards’ new offensive coordinator. Hill will replace Rob Likens, who was a part of the post-regular-season purge.

“Zak is very well versed in offensive football,” the head coach said in a statement. “He comes from winning programs and he played the quarterback position. I like that. He’s good at building an offense around the personnel that he has available to him. He will force the defense to adjust with multiple formations and personnel groups. His style fits the DNA of what we want on our coaching staff. He’s an excellent teacher.”

The past four seasons, Hill served as the coordinator at Boise State. Prior to that, and aside from a one-month stop at Hawaii, Hill spent seven seasons as the passing-game coordinator and quarterbacks coach at FCS power Eastern Washington.

“I am really excited about this opportunity and I truly believe it is a great situation for me at ASU,” Hill said. “I appreciate Coach Edwards believing in me and having the trust to bring me on and I am thankful to Ray Anderson and the Sun Devil administration for their support in making this happen. I am really excited to get down there and I know we have some exciting weapons on offense. I look forward to putting together an explosive, fun offense that our fans will love to watch.”

“I am humbled at this opportunity. I also want to thank everyone at Boise State for a great four years and I am grateful for all the support I have received from Bronco Nation,” he added. “I would especially like to thank Coach Harsin for his leadership and my years at Boise State and the opportunity he afforded me to grow as a coach.”

In addition to Hill’s, uhhh, addition, ASU also confirmed Derek Hagan and Prentice Gill as offensive assistants. Their specific titles and responsibilities were not detailed.

Hagan, who played wide receiver for the Sun Devils and was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame in 2015, was an offensive analyst at ASU this past season. Gill served in the same role at Oregon.

Dabo Swinney lays out new responsibilities for offensive staff

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Jeff Scott spent a dozen years at Clemson, including the last five seasons as co-offensive coordinator, before taking the head job at USF earlier this month. Despite his importance to Dabo Swinney‘s success, there won’t be too much change for the defending national champions moving forward.

Friday, Swinney confirmed that he will not be filling Scott’s co-coordinator position and will instead allow Tony Elliott to serve as the sole coordinator. Elliott and Scott have shared coordinating responsibilities each of the past five seasons.

Quarterbacks coach Brandon Streeter will maintain his current responsibilities as well as add the title of passing-game coordinator.

Additionally, Tyler Grisham, who played for the Tigers from 2005-08, has been promoted to wide receivers coach, a responsibility previously held by Scott. Grisham had been serving as an offensive analyst for the program.

“We have a good plan for all that stuff and have a great group of people here,” the head coach said. “We’re excited about getting it all settled out.”

Swinney also reiterated that, as had previously been laid out, Scott will return to the team next Thursday and will remain through however long the Tigers’ postseason run lasts. Clemson will face Ohio State Dec. 28 in one of the two College Football Playoff semifinals.

Ohio State’s Justin Fields the way-too-early 2020 Heisman favorite

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You say the tears aren’t even dry yet from Joe Burrow‘s acceptance speech and we’re already looking ahead to 2020?  You’re damn right we are.

Saturday night, Burrow claimed the 2019 Heisman Trophy in record-smashing fashion, with the quarterback becoming just the second LSU Tiger to claim the most prestigious trophy in the sport.  Quarterback Justin Fields finished third in the voting, one of three Ohio State Buckeyes to land in the top six in the voting.

Speaking of Fields, one online sportsbook has the sophomore listed as a 5/2 favorite to win the 2020 Heisman Trophy.  Fellow sophomore Trevor Lawrence of Clemson is right behind him at 3/1.

The next closest is Alabama quarterback Mac Jones at 7/1.

A handful of the players who finished in the Top 10 in the voting — Ohio State defensive end Chase Young, Ohio State running back JK Dobbins, Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa — have eligibility remaining, but are expected to leave early for the NFL draft.  If any of them opt to remain in school, that would obviously change the odds moving forward.

USC transfer QB Jack Sears appears headed to San Diego State

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Jack Sears may have left USC, but it doesn’t appear he’ll end up leaving the state of California.

After finding himself fourth on the quarterbacking depth chart, Sears announced on his personal Twitter account in late August that he had decided to enter the NCAA transfer database.  A little over three months later, and after a flirtation with Oregon State, the Los Angeles Times is reporting that “Sears has committed to San Diego State as a graduate transfer who would enroll during the spring semester.”

As a graduate transfer, Sears would be eligible to play for the Aztecs in 2020.  He would also have another season of eligibility he could use in 2021 as well.

As of yet, the Mountain West Conference school hasn’t confirmed Sears’ intentions.

Sears was a four-star member of the Trojans’ 2017 recruiting class, rated as the No. 4 pro-style quarterback in the country.  After redshirting as a true freshman, Sears completed 20-of-28 passes for 235 yards and a touchdown the following season.