Written by Dave Dulberg, USC blog contributor
Although Saturday's game against Arizona State marks the first road test for many of the young Trojans, junior defensive end Devon Kennard will be feeling right at home in Tempe.
Kennard (picture by John McGillen) grew up in Phoenix, just five miles away from the ASU campus. While the Arizona native said he is approaching this weekend's game like any other, Kennard's energy level at practice this week suggested he might have a little extra in the tank for the hometown supporters.
"This is a game I have had circled on my calendar for a long time," Kennard said of his final trip back home. "I know their coaching staff well, a lot of the players and have a lot of family and friends coming to the game."
Kennard first made a name for himself at Desert Vista High School, where as a junior, he recorded a state-high 24 sacks and 111 tackles en route to being named a Rivals.com All-American. Despite tearing ligaments in his knee during his senior season, the ASU coaching staff showed tremendous interest in Kennard, but the hometown product insists he always had dreams to be a Trojan.
Ironically, Kennard's first career start for USC came during his first trip back home in 2009. Although the Trojans won a 14-9 defensive struggle, the lingering memory from that game for the then outside linebacker stems from an open-field confrontation (pictured below by Getty Images) he had with current starting quarterback Brock Osweiler.
"The only play I remember is when [Brock] Osweiler got me with a stiff arm for a first down," said Kennard. "A lot of my friends gave me a hard time about that for over a year. So, I am excited because I owe him one."
This season, Kennard is back in his familiar role as a defensive end, and thus far has recorded nine tackles in three games. While he is pleased with his effort level, the Phoenician admits it would be nice to get a sack or two during his final homecoming.
"I think I have played well so far because I am getting pressure on the quarterback," said Kennard. "I've come really close to some sacks but still haven't had one. This will be a great opportunity for me because they throw the ball a lot in their offensive attack. I will have my chances."
Kennard expects to have around 20 friends and family in attendance on Saturday night, so while most of the Trojans will be showered with boos from the raucous Sun Devil faithful, the junior hopes to hear some hometown cheers regardless of the score.
"There's just a little bit more excitement for me," said Kennard. "This is home for me, and I can't wait to play there one last time."