ALISO VIEJO, Calif. - Cody Kessler is one of the nation's best quarterbacks, but he also wants to keep improving so having Mark Sanchez here at the EA Sports Elite 11 is invaluable, an opportunity Kessler doesn't plan to waste.
Sanchez, the New York Jets quarterback who played at USC, was more than willing to help Kessler and the other quarterbacks on day one, offering advice to the Bakersfield (Calif.) Centennial standout who committed to the Trojans on June 2 and telling him and others what to expect when they get to college.
Sanchez has been there. Kessler wants to get there. There couldn't be a better opportunity for the 6-foot-1, 208-pounder who's rated as the second-best pro-style quarterback by Rivals.com.
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"You think coming out of high school you're this highly touted quarterback and you're just going to go in and play and everything is going to be great and you're going to win four national championships," Sanchez said. "That's not the way it went. I only played one year.
"(He has) to be resilient, to work, to get your school stuff done early, to really take those hard classes your freshman and sophomore years when you're not playing because it's going to be hard when you're getting a chance to play, to support the starter when you're not, to work like you're the starter when you're not, to study, study, study, just study."
Kessler is soaking it up. A former USC star is telling him about what the college experience will be like, what to expect, what to work on. This is a rare opportunity that Kessler, rated No. 64 nationally, is not passing up.
"After every throw, after everything you do, you ask what you can improve on, what should I do better, and then you talk to them about what it's like in college, what their life is like, what to expect and what to stay away from," Kessler said. "It's just all the stuff to improve on that they know that we don't know yet. It's kind of cool having everyone here.
"(Sanchez) asked me if I was Kessler and I said yeah and he said you're going to love (USC). He said there's not one bad thing I can say about SC. He said he loves it there. (Lane) Kiffin was there for a little bit when he was there, but he said the school and the fans and the support is just awesome. He said it's a place where you want to be and he said the quarterbacks are kind of treated like gods."
Oviedo (Fla.) Hagerty's Jeff Driskel, a Florida commit, is making the most of this opportunity, too. Driskel said he's tried to pick the brains of the college quarterbacks working out - Virginia Tech's Tyrod Taylor, Miami's Jacory Harris, TCU's Andy Dalton and Michigan State's Kirk Cousins to name a few - because these opportunities don't present themselves often. He's not going to miss his chance.
"Coming out here I'm trying to have fun and learn some stuff, and out here on day one I feel like I did both of those things," Driskel said. "Being out here with all the college guys, and Mark Sanchez coming out here and working out it's a big learning opportunity. I'm out here asking as many questions as I can without getting too annoying. I'm learning and I'm learning from the best.
"What are they looking at right when they snap the ball? Where are their eyes going? Once they see what they're looking at where do they go? Do they go to the defense or the offense? I'm starting to learn a little bit."
Dalton said: "It takes a lot of time, a lot of effort and a lot of work. These guys are highly touted coming in, but that doesn't mean anything. They haven't done anything once they get there. Go to the team, show your respect, show them you're going to work hard and show them what you're capable of doing."
Sanchez and the college guys were more than willing to help. On more than a few occasions, the college players were offering pointers or subtle tips, things to consider or watch for - when the safety does this, you do this or don't move your head too much or always watch out for this.
These are some of the nation's best prep quarterbacks but still have so much to learn. On the same field at Soka University with many of college football's best quarterbacks, they're learning the intricacies that only time and experience can teach a player. Few high school recruits ever get this kind of break.
"You have to get the reps, you have to practice, you have to do it, not just physically but there's so much more especially (at USC) and when you play big-time schools every week," Sanchez said.
"It's going to be such a great foundation for (Kessler) if he ever does play after college because you go into the NFL that much more ahead and you're still behind, but it's a little bit of an edge. It's going to be great for him to have an offensive mind like Lane around. That's so big for him, to soak it up, to keep your head up.
"There are going to be some tough days in practice, there are going to be some tough days in school. Stay positive, get the guys to rally around him and hope for the best. It might be a long time, you might have to wait a little bit, but don't be discouraged."
That's a message all the Elite 11 quarterbacks should hear, wherever they're going to college.
Other News & Notes: Four-star defensive end Todd Barr from Lakewood, Calif., was one of the receivers working out and since he's visiting Florida and Miami in the next few weeks it was a perfect opportunity to stop Harris and ask him about the Hurricanes.
Barr's coach, Thadd MacNeal, wore an Oregon hat to the workout but Barr promised it wasn't a hint on where his recruitment is headed although the Ducks are in contention along with Cal, UCLA and others. The Golden Bears are considered the frontrunner at this point but Barr is still open.
** Top 2012 quarterback Zach Kline from Danville (Calif.) San Ramon Valley said Cal, Oregon State, Hawaii and Oregon are showing him the most interest and that the Golden Bears are the early favorite.