LAYTON -- Two-year starting quarterbacks have been an anomaly at the 'Ridge.
For the first time in coach Erik Thompson's 10 years, he has a returning quarterback.
Nate Kusuda, who completed 156 of 270 passes for 2,226 yards with 15 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, is back for his senior season at Northridge.
"Nate is the only quarterback I've coached for two years," Thompson said. "I had T.J. Canales for his senior year, but it's been pretty rare to have a two-year quarterback at the 'Ridge.
"We're light years ahead of where we typically are," he said. "Nate is super smart, which may be his best trait. I joke that I don't even need to go to the game because Nate could call it.
"What Nate does in the run game and in calling protections is similar to what a college quarterback does," Thompson said. "It's rare and typically hard to get to that point with a one-year starter.
"It's going to be invaluable when we're running no-huddle," he said. "During the offseason we worked on getting in better shape, but we have to communicate the plays better. Nate was instrumental in creating a new language that will enable us to be more up-tempo."
Thompson says Kusuda is a very accurate passer with a 57.8 completion percentage in 2012.
"Nate has gained 20 pounds (he is listed at 180 on the Knights' roster) and at 6-foot-2, he is bigger and faster. He was a good quarterback last year and we won nine games. I think he'll take that next step from being a good quarterback to a great quarterback.
"Nate doesn't get unsettled and is pretty even-keeled," Thompson said. "I think Nate has the potential to be the best Kusuda in the family. His older brothers, Jeff and Brian, each won a state 5-A title in their senior year."
Jeff Kusuda returned from a broken jaw suffered in Week 1 of the 2000 season, later teaming with Jase McCormick for Northridge's first 5-A football championship.
McCormick was the starter in 2001 and Brian Kusuda was the starting quarterback for the 2002 state 5-A three-peat.
"Nate has a great legacy in his family," Thompson said. "His brothers and his dad, Mike, have prepared him. We can run the plays we have more efficiently with Nate being a two-year starter in our program.
"But he isn't the only one to have to process the information," Thompson said. "It starts with the kid and the (Northridge) system is quarterback friendly. I have a proven quarterback coach in Braden Mitchell, who joined the staff full time in 2009. The kids consider Mitchell their coach.
"I learned from the best in Fred Fernandes, who was a master at creating mismatches and putting kids in a position to succeed," he said.
Fernandes was 69-23 in eight years at Northridge with the three 5-A championships.
Thompson says the two quarterbacks playing behind Kusuda -- junior Ben Jackson and sophomore Jrue Perkins -- are going to be special in their own way.
"I deal more with the scheme and I get to know them one-on-one and their personality," he said. "I coach each of them differently according to their respective personality. We try to tailor the offense to their skill set and have them run the plays as sophomores and juniors."
The Knights last won a league title in 2003 and lost Davy Adams, Dallin Isaacson and Zach Hayes -- who combined for 35 touchdowns last season -- to graduation.
"They were three of the best offensive players we have had and will be hard to replace," Thompson said. "I feel like our depth is better this year. We'll have fewer players playing both ways, but we need to stay healthy, be more physical and stay focused against the bigger teams we face."
Northridge has four returning starters in its spread and pro-set offense; the Knights feature four returnees in their 4-2-5 defensive scheme.
Thompson is 63-35 in nine years at Northridge.