Josh Shaw has been the unsung hero of the USC defense splitting time at safety and cornerback.
By RAHSHAUN HAYLOCKFS West
LOS ANGELES – If you're looking for
USC'sJosh Shaw, you may find him at cornerback. You may find him at safety.
Regardless of where's he's lined up, his teammates know where he is.
That was evident in USC's game against Utah State last Saturday. In the first half, the Aggies connected for a long gain down their sideline, which was eventually called back because of an ineligible receiver downfield.
As the referees sorted out the specifics, no less than five of the USC defenders came over to Shaw and sought his counseling about what happened on the play.
"We were playing Cover 2 or whatnot and so we just had a little miscommunication," Shaw said. “It was hard because (Utah State wide receiver Bruce Natson), he was dead, he was on the ball too but he still went out for a pass. We got it cleaned up though.”
Natson picked up 31 yards on the play but it was called back because he was the ineligible receiver.
The situation was quickly resolved. The discussion came up again on the sideline after the possession was over. As the story goes, USC continued its stellar play defensively.
While Devon Kennard, Morgan Breslin, and Leonard Williams have stolen all of the headlines, it's Shaw, who from his safety spot and now as a corner, who has helped make the USC defense run to the tune of the fourth best unit in the country.
He doesn't say much off of the field but on it, he starts the chain of communication.
Shaw's contributions may speak even louder this week.
USC's defense has been good against the run this season, allowing just 2.2 yards per carry. Offensively, Arizona State only averages 2.9 yards per rush. Where the Sun Devils hurt the opposition is in the passing game. Led by quarterback Taylor Kelly, ASU is eighth in the country in pass offense, averaging 361.3 yards per game.
Junior College transfer Jaelen Strong has been his major weapon at receiver averaging 110 yards per game.
"He's been playing well these first few games of the season," Shaw said of Strong. "We definitely have our work cut out for us."
At safety or potentially lined up opposite him at cornerback, Shaw will be paying a great deal of attention to Strong.
A benefit Shaw and the rest of the secondary have is a front seven that can generate a great deal of pressure.
"For a secondary guy, it kind of means you don't have to cover as long," Shaw said. "So, that's a good thing. Sometimes I'm in coverage and I look back and I see the quarterback scrambling for his life.
"I think last week, Chuckie Keeton, I think most of his throws were under 1.5 seconds. So he was pretty much catching and throwing. That’s just a testament to our defensive line. Those guys are getting after it."
This week Shaw is hoping for more of the same from his defense. Even if there are some breakdowns in coverage, the players know how to settle it and it'll be Shaw who they look to lead those conversations.