Five things we learned about USC this spring

Quarterback confidence

Fifth-year senior Cody Kessler improved his mobility, and Coach Steve Sarkisian said that could help the team convert more on third down.


Kessler built chemistry with young receivers JuJu Smith and Steven Mitchell and newcomer Isaac Whitney.

Third-year sophomore Max Browne, Kessler's backup, was among the most improved players.

Browne completed deep passes, avoided sacks and had fewer passes intercepted in the final weeks.

Sarkisian said Browne would succeed if he played.

Defensive linemen sidelined

There was no answer to how the defensive line will fill the hole left by Leonard Williams.

Tackle Antwaun Woods and end Greg Townsend Jr. were sidelined because of injuries. Third-year sophomore tackle Kenny Bigelow, sidelined last season after knee surgery, worked almost exclusively in individual drills.

End Claude Pelon was absent from a practice because of academics. He did not participate in the spring game because he dropped below the minimum number of units for the semester and was academically ineligible, Sarkisian said. Pelon is expected to be eligible in the fall, Sarkisian said.

Tailback health

Depth and health is a concern at tailback.

Junior Justin Davis was the only scholarship tailback available to participate in all drills. Davis, prone to fumbling last season, demonstrated improved ball security.

Fifth-year senior Tre Madden, sidelined last season because of a foot injury, participated in non-contact drills until the final practices this spring.

Three freshmen tailbacks will enroll this summer.

Cornerback turnaround


Cornerback, a weakness the last few seasons, could be a strength.

Kevon Seymour was among the most improved players. The senior showed a newfound aggressiveness and broke up more passes.

Two-way player Adoree' Jackson practiced at cornerback once or twice a week. The defense played was collectively better with him on that side of the line of scrimmage.

Tight end situation

Walk-on Connor Spears took reps with the starters.

Junior Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick, who was academically ineligible last season, took reps with the backups. But Cope-Fitzpatrick was listed as the starter on the end-of-spring depth chart. His academic situation remains uncertain.

Sophomore Bryce Dixon was absent this spring because of a student-conduct issue, Sarkisian said.

Freshman Tyler Petite will enroll this summer.

Questions about USC? Email me at or tweet @LindseyThiry and I will respond to select messages in a weekly USC Now mailbag.