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Elite 11 QBs getting quality advice

7/20/2010

ALISO VIEJO, Calif. -- No school has had more representation in the ESPN RISE Elite 11 quarterback camps than USC.

Whether it's Matt Leinart, Mark Sanchez, John David Booty or Matt Cassel, going through the Elite 11 camp has been as much of a rite of passage for future Trojans quarterbacks as learning the words to "Fight On."

But if not for some last-minute reconsideration, three-star passer Cody Kessler (Bakersville, Calif./Centennial) might not have been part of the Trojans' lineage.

"I was ready to commit to Washington when I got the offer," Kessler said. "It was going to happen pretty soon.

"Then I got the offer from coach [Lane] Kiffin and coach [Clay] Helton."

That's when everything changed. The commitment to the Huskies was off and the recruiting process that Kessler was trying to close was wide open again.

"Once the offer came in I had to reconsider everything," Kessler said.

It didn't take long and, once again, USC got its man.

"The more I thought about it, the easier it was see that USC was the place for me," Kessler said. "There's really no way around it."

Within a few days of Kessler's commitment to USC, the NCAA released its findings in a major investigation and handed down severe sanctions on the program, including a loss of 30 scholarships over the next three seasons and a two-year bowl ban.

But Kessler quickly quieted any speculation that he was considering a switch.

"It was worse than everyone wanted it to be and we weren't happy," Kessler said about the sanctions. "But I couldn't let something that I can't control affect where I want to play."

On the first day of the Elite 11 camp, it was easy to see why Kiffin and Helton wanted the 6-foot-1, 210-pounder as part of their recruiting class. Kessler's passing and movements were crisp and his attention to detail was sharp.

But more than anything, Kessler looks the part.

He walks and talks with a confidence that is necessary to be successful in one of the nation's most successful and demanding programs. It's a delicate mixture of California cool and competitive fire.

And with Sanchez joining in on the drills, Kessler's desire to impress the New York Jets quarterback was evident.

"We got paired up for the 7-on-7 and he was calling the plays for me," Kessler added. "We were together the whole time. It's been good talking with him about everything."

Kessler said that Sanchez, the 2009 Rose Bowl Offensive MVP, had some simple advice: study, study, study.

"Basically he said you have to be the first one in the film room every day and the last one out," Kessler said. "He's a great example of what happens when you work hard and in order to be successful at USC you have to work harder than everyone else."

Kessler will graduate from Centennial in December and enroll at USC in January. He will have plenty of opportunities to learn at a measured pace with both starter Matt Barkley and experienced backup Mitch Mustain returning.

Still, he wants to prepare for any and all possibilities. After all, Barkley entered the program in 2009 at third on the depth chart before rising to the starting role over the summer.

"My goal is just to be the best player I can be," Kessler said. "I'm looking forward to learning from coach Helton and throwing against coach [Monte] Kiffin's defenses every day. They will have me prepared for anything that comes."

Harris and Bridgewater together again

Current Miami starting quarterback Jacory Harris was paired with future Miami quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (Miami, Fla./Northwestern) at the camp -- and it was a position familiar to both of them.

While Harris was setting high school records in Miami-Dade County en route to leading Northwestern to its second-straight state championship, Bridgewater was starting his path to greatness on the freshman team.

"He's an awesome guy," Harris said of Bridgewater. "He came out here and won the accuracy challenge. Teddy is working hard to get better."

The comparisons between the two have always been there. Bridgewater has broken many of the county records that Harris set. They are of similar size as well, but Harris sees clear differences in their playing style.

"Teddy is someone that has the ability to make the play happen," Harris added. "He has the ability to keep the play alive with his mobility and he can make the throw whenever he wants."

While the pressure that comes with playing football is considerable, it's nothing compared to what Harris has experienced in his two years at Miami.

Still he believes that Bridgewater has the mindset to handle the pressure; he just needs to handle the offense.

"I think Teddy's personality is one that the pressure won't bother him too much," Harris said. "The big deal is going to be converting from running a spread offense in high school to the pro-style we have at Miami.

"It was the biggest challenge for me but if he stays focused and keeps his mind straight, I expect he'll do great things."

One final piece of advice from Harris could be the most important for Bridgewater, who can sometimes be distracted by the spotlight.

"He will need to stay calm and don't try to be the superstar," Harris said. "Our job isn't to be the superstar but to deliver the ball to the superstars and let them make the play happen, because we can't do it alone."