USC Trojans defensive end (42) Devon Kennard in action during a game between the Trojans and the Utah Utes at the Coliseum.

By Jose Marin, Marin Media

Four years ago this week Devon Kennard's plans could have been wrecked.

A torn anterior cruciate ligament knee injury is no longer a career killer, but there is a scar or two left behind.

When the former Desert Vista star enters Sun Devil Stadium on Saturday with the rest of his USC teammates it will be very clear that the discoloration on his right knee was the only thing left behind.

"I am excited for my last game in Phoenix," Kennard said by phone this week. "I haven't got a sack this year and against that passing attack there are going to be some opportunities so hopefully I can get me one."

Kennard had plenty in his time at Desert Vista before the knee injury. Had seven sacks has a sophomore, 24 as a junior and 1½ his senior before tearing the ACL late in a 22-21 win over Chandler.

He was considered the top defensive recruit in the nation, and No. 2 overall, at the time of the injury because of his ability to get to the quarterback from his defensive end position.

The 6-foot-3, 250-pound Kennard returns to the Valley against the Sun Devils back at his natural position after spending the last half of his freshman year at inside linebacker and his sophomore year at outside linebacker.

"It was a good transition considering it was nothing I ever did before," Kennard said of moving to linebacker. "I think it made a much better player because I am much more versatile, but now I am excited to be back at defensive end. It's where I am most comfortable."

Kennard is listed as a co-starter at one of the defensive end spots along with junior Wes Horton, while junior Nick Perry occupies the other starting end position.

The fight for a starting spot is microcosm of Kennard's time at USC. He's had to deal with injuries (hip and thumb surgeries), position changes and position battles since he's been in Los Angeles.

He feels he handed all of the adversity well because of the injury he sustained as a senior.

"It taught me a lot," he said. "It tore me down and I had to work my way back to the top. I knew how to deal with adversity because I had to before I even got here. I had to rehab my senior year and then come here and prove that I was back to being me."

Desert Vista coach Dan Hinds remembered the injury how emotional everyone on the team was. Everyone other than Kennard that is.

"I have never seen anyone handle a severe injury like that before," Hinds recalled. "He was very mature and understood the process and did everything he could to make sure it was going to be OK, but when it first happened the whole team was upset but he kept it going.

"Even after the injury he rarely missed a practice and still pushed the team with his leadership."

Kennard still visits and talks to the players whenever he is back in the Ahwatukee Foothills area. He spoke to the team over the summer and got everyone fired up.

"He just has a way about him," Hinds said. "I love having him talk to the team because they really look up to him."

Kennard has 115 career tackles, including nine for a loss and two sacks, in 14 career starts and 28 career games. The numbers may not jump out, but he feels his best game is his next one.

And that just happens to be against the Sun Devils.

"I am working to have that break out year and I like direction I am heading," he said. "It's been great. I've played in every game and started some games every year. I haven't had that big, monster game yet, but that doesn't mean it isn't coming."

Kennard is on pace to graduate this spring with a degree in communications, but he doesn't plan on putting it to use anytime soon.

He wants to enter the Master's program and come back for his senior year on the football field since he barely had one at DV.

"My concentration right now is to keep getting better this year," he said. "Unless something changes, I fully intend to come back, but right now we are only concerned with beating Arizona State."

Contact writer at (480) 898-7915 or Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.

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