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USC quarterback Cody Kessler on the move and scrambling more

USC quarterback Cody Kessler works on his mobility at spring practice to reduce sacks

 

USC quarterback Cody Kessler hurt opposing defenses with his arm last season.

In 2015, he intends to do more with his legs.

The fifth-year senior, who passed for 39 touchdowns in 2014, is running with the ball more during spring workouts as he seeks to reduce sacks and give the Trojans another offensive weapon.

Kessler said that if he goes through his progressions and does not find an open receiver, he will be more inclined to scramble than throw the ball out of bounds.

"If it's not there and there's a lane, I'm going to take off," he said this week. "Even if it's only five, six, seven yards, it's better than throwing it away or taking a sack."

USC gave up 32 sacks last season. Kessler gained 100 yards rushing, but his net yardage because of sacks was minus 152 yards.

Coach Steve Sarkisian said he was encouraged by Kessler's scrambling.

"Cody's never going to be a runner where we're calling designed runs for him," Sarkisian said, "but if we can take advantage of some third and fours and third and six when coverage is really good ... those are winning plays in a ballgame."

Winning leap

Adoree' Jackson won the long jump event, ran a leg on USC's winning 4x100-meter relay and also participated in the 4x400-relay in last week's Trojan Invitational track meet.

Jackson, who is alternating practice days at cornerback and receiver this spring, said Thursday that his preference would be to compete solely in track during spring.

"Coach Sark said he wanted me out there to learn everything that we're doing new, so I just listen to him to do the new stuff," Jackson said. "But my preference was just to go out here and run track and compete and try to be an All-American in the sport."

Jackson said he hoped to compete in the Florida Relays next weekend in Gainesville — and only in track next spring.

"I'll worry about next year, next year," Sarkisian said.

Making strides

Defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox has been encouraged by improvements through eight spring workouts.

"We're playing a lot quicker mentally," he said.

USC ranked 76th nationally and fifth in the Pac-12 Conference in 2014 in Wilcox's first season.

Wilcox noted improved play by cornerback Kevon Seymour, lineman Delvon Simmons, linebacker Lamar Dawson and even linebacker Su'a Cravens, who was All-Pac-12 last season.

"You just see the development and kind of the next step for those guys, which is exciting," he said.

gary.klein@latimes.com

Twitter: @latimesklein

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