LOS ANGELES (AP) — Cody Kessler's head has finally stopped spinning after a Southern California season featuring four head coaches, interminable drama and — somehow — 10 victories.
The quarterback is hoping for a return to normalcy for the Trojans this fall under new coach Steve Sarkisian. And even after four seasons of Lane Kiffin, title contention is still the norm at USC.
"We come to USC to win championships, no matter who the coach is," said Kessler, who started all 14 games last season. "It was a crazy season last year, but we always have players who can compete for a Pac-12 title and a national championship at USC, and I think we're in a position to do that again."
Sarkisian has returned to his native Los Angeles area to take his shot at restoring USC to the glory of the last decade. With NCAA sanctions nearly finished and a sparkling new training complex on campus, the former Washington coach believes it's time for USC to return to its spot atop the Pac-12.
"I don't know many schools that could have won 10 games twice during the middle of sanctions with the loss of scholarships — and built two brand-new buildings," Sarkisian said. "I think it says a lot about the power of SC."
Sarkisian feels he returned at the perfect time for a program ready to rise again after the chaos of 2013, and he is already making a personal mark on the Trojans.
USC has installed an aggressive, up-tempo offense that will be new to Coliseum fans used to the Trojans' traditional pro-style sets. Kessler is excited to show off his athleticism on a revamped offense including returning tailbacks Tre Madden and Javorius Allen.
Sarkisian also has been polite and cordial to UCLA and coach Jim Mora, who have taken over Los Angeles supremacy with two straight wins over the Trojans and a highly ranked team heading into the fall.
The transition has been relatively smooth for Sarkisian, who knows he must win immediately to keep USC's zealous fans happy about athletic director Pat Haden's choice. Even with a brutal early schedule featuring six straight opponents coming off winning seasons, Sarkisian believes he has the team to make an immediate run at a league title.
"I feel very connected to this team," Sarkisian said. "I feel like our staff is very connected to these players, and that goes a long way."
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