LOS ANGELES >> Cody Kessler liked the feeling.
On Thursday, for the first time since arriving at USC in the spring of 2011, Kessler took the first snap with the starting offense in a scrimmage.
“I feel very comfortable with the ones,” he said afterward. “Very in command.”
Whether Kessler takes control of USC’s quarterback competition remains to be seen, but he is making a case by continuing to show the efficiency and leadership he displayed during spring practice.
Kessler and fellow sophomore Max Wittek both played well Thursday at the Coliseum.
Kessler took the majority of his series with the first-unit offense. Wittek, who started two games last season and was first up in the spring game, will go first in the Trojans’ second scrimmage next week, Coach Lane Kiffin said.
Kessler completed 12 of 16 passes for 121 yards and a touchdown. He began by directing a 70-yard scoring drive that ended with tailback Justin Davis’ short touchdown run.
“The best part about it was not that I went first, but I went first and we drove down and scored,” Kessler said. “I think that was pretty cool, to come out in the first scrimmage of fall camp and go down and then have a drive like that…I think that was a big step, a big confidence builder for the offense.”
Kessler also led a drive that featured a long completion to receiver Nelson Agholor and ended with a short touchdown pass to fullback Jahleel Pinner.
Wittek got only one series with the first unit. He completed 13 of 20 passes for 193 yards and two touchdowns, both to Agholor.
Wittek’s long pass to Agholor for a 70-yard touchdown was the highlight play of the day. Agholor finished with eight receptions for 161 yards.
“It was good because Nelson had the great spring and really had just an OK first week” in training camp, Kiffin said. “So it was good to see him make plays again like we’re used to seeing.”
Marqise Lee played fewer than two dozen plays and caught four passes for 27 yards.
Quarterbacks are not subjected to tackles during scrimmages, but the defense was credited with eight sacks. Linebackers Lamar Dawson and Scott Starr each made seven tackles, including two for losses…. Freshman quarterback Max Browne completed seven of 11 passes for 54 yards…. Davis rushed for 32 yards and a touchdown in six carries, Javorius Allen 49 yards in 18…. Andrei Heidari kicked field goals of 41 and 22 yards. A 44-yard attempt hit the left upright…. Offensive tackle Aundrey Walker, safety Su’a Cravens, receiver De’Von Flournoy and running backs Silas Redd, Tre Madden and Ty Isaac were among the players who did not participate because of injuries…. Linebacker Hayes Pullard and tight end Xavier Grimble played one series and then left to attend a class, Kiffin said.