If there is one thing that Josh Shaw has grown accustomed to in his time as a Trojan, it’s change. While bouncing between safety and cornerback multiple times, the fourth-year junior has been in a near-constant state of transition over the course of the last year, and particularly so this fall.
Lining up at safety against Hawaii in Week 1, the versatile Shaw went on to start the next four contests at cornerback, before switching back to safety for the Trojans’ games versus Arizona and Notre Dame.
With Utah visiting Saturday, Shaw has returned to corner, where he’ll likely start this week.
And through every change, the 6-foot-1 and 200-pound Palmdale (Calif.) product has taken the latest change in stride.
“I’ll tell you one thing, I’m getting more and more used to it,” said Shaw, who started the final seven games of his sophomore year at cornerback for the Trojans. “At times it can be difficult ... I’m playing safety for two weeks, then corner, then back to safety, then back to corner, but I welcome it. I think it’s only going to help me in the long run.”
The most recent move was done to help shore up the cornerback position opposite Kevon Seymour that has been exploited by opposing offenses as of late. With Torin Harris manning the spot against Arizona, and Anthony Brown versus Notre Dame, both Wildcats quarterback B.J. Denker and Fighting Irish signal-caller Tommy Rees exploited USC’s pass defense, completing a combined 65% of their passes for 529 yards and six touchdowns with no interceptions.
USC defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast is hoping that Shaw, a physical athlete with strong cover skills, will bring some desperately needed stability to the position.
“ … [The coaches] felt that it was best for the team,” said Shaw, who ranks fourth on the team with 35 tackles to go along with one interception. “I played there earlier in the season, and I played well there, so he said that he was comfortable with me moving back to corner because we need to tighten some things up on the back-end.”
Shaw does admit, however, that playing cornerback requires a unique approach.
“You’re just out there on the island,” Shaw said. “You really can’t give up anything, and there’s no room for error out there. You know, a guy can catch a hitch and spin out of a tackle for a 60-yard touchdown, or he can double-move you, or whatever, so you just really have to be technically sound, and you just have to have a certain mindset out there.”
During practice this week Shaw has lined up with Demetrius Wright and Su’a Cravens at the safety positions, along with Seymour at the other cornerback spot and the group has made it a priority to come up with a strong showing against Utah, after having had more than their fair share of struggles in recent weeks.
“You’ve got to remember whenever you’re in the back-end, you’ve got to have a short-term memory, because the best corners out there and the best safeties out there, they get balls caught on them, but it’s how you bounce back,” Shaw said. “I’ve been telling the group, it has to become personal at some point when someone is catching the ball, so no more, ‘We’ll get it next time,’ and this and that. We’ve got to go out there and establish what we want to do from Play 1.”
And so long as the members of the Trojans secondary accomplish that goal this weekend, with the ultimate result being a USC victory, Shaw couldn’t care less where he’s lining up at.
“I’m always a team guy,” Shaw said, “so if this is what I’ve got to do to help this defense, then I’m all for it.”