"I had that thought in my head, 'I can't mess up or you're not going to get the spot,'" Kessler said. "Or 'You've got to make this play or you're not going to win the job.'
"I don't have to worry about that anymore and it's awesome to know the coaches have full confidence in me."
Kessler said teammates have rallied behind him since the announcement, offering encouragement on and off the field. Receiver Marqise Lee, who had been pining for Kiffin to make a decision since the start of training camp, was among them.
"Instead of playing that half, Cody can get that tempo going," Lee said. "And no matter if he has a flaw, he can continue to build off that and go into the third quarter and build off it and continue to work on it."
According to Kiffin, Kessler already appears more confident in practice.
"A little more decisive with throwing the football," he said. "Not quite as much hesitation."
Now Kessler will try to translate that to games.
"It's kind of a new start," he said, "and I'm ready to take this role and run with it."