Josh Shaw returned to practice Wednesday and took a lot of snaps with the first team, which means he could play a significant role at cornerback or nickelback against UCLA on Saturday.
But Trojans coach Steve Sarkisian did not commit to a role for the formerly suspended cornerback.
“I thought he moved pretty fluidly,” Sarkisian said. “You can tell he’s been active. From a game-plan standpoint, we really don’t know. It’s one day in.”
That was the official line, but UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley rushed for 80 yards and passed for 208 last season against USC, so Shaw would be welcomed at either nickelback or safety.
“You always want more players and more depth,” defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox said.
The question might be how quickly Shaw could get back into football hitting mode after not playing a game for 11 months.
“Everybody’s different,” Wilcox said.
The only person who really knows is Shaw, and he did not speak to the media Wednesday. Sarkisian said Shaw would not be allowed to speak to the media until USC’s bowl practices in December.
Sarkisian played down the idea Shaw’s return is just the latest distraction to hit the Trojans since Shaw was suspended in late August.
“I think the one positive about the season that we’ve had, with all the things that have gone on off the field, is this isn’t a big deal (to the team),” Sarkisian said. “We’ve been dealing with so much. It’s a real character trait of our guys that they have the unique ability to minimize the distractions, focus on the task at hand and do their job.
“I just don’t think they’re making it bigger than it needs to be. They have a teammate who’s back on the team and they’re happy for him.”
At the least, Shaw would be a valuable special teams addition if you believe all the talk this season about the Trojans’ roster being handicapped with fewer scholarship players.
Most of Shaw’s teammates publicly forgave him for lying about how he sprained his ankles. Shaw lied and said he rescued his drowning nephew when he actually jumped off a balcony to evade police following an argument with his girlfriend.
“People make mistakes,” linebacker Su’a Cravens said. “Not everybody’s perfect.”
But privately, some players resented Shaw’s behavior. It’s unlikely that will make any difference on Saturday, however.
“I’m hopeful that he can focus on football and have a good couple weeks here with his teammates,” Sarkisian said.
Dixon on hold
Sarkisian said he hoped to hear by today whether tight end Bryce Dixon would play against UCLA. Dixon is suspended pending an investigation by the university into an incident between Dixon and another student.
Allen makes cut
Tailback Javorius Allen was named one of 10 semifinalists for the Doak Walker Award, which goes to the nation’s top running back.
USC holds its annual rally tonight at 7 p.m. in McCarthy Quad, featuring the band, football players and a bonfire. The rally is open to the general public, who are asked to bring a government ID if they attend.
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