LOS ANGELES – Following the loss to Notre Dame, the conversation came up once again – how is the USC defense going to solve its issues at cornerback?
Summoned into the office once again this season was the versatile one, who at this point could simply be called “Old Reliable,” Josh Shaw.
The USC defensive back has gone from safety to cornerback to returning to safety to once again being called upon to help at cornerback.
The goal is to put the best 11 players on the field defensively. There’s no question that Shaw is a part of that best 11. The question is, does the Trojans best 11 include Shaw at safety? Or at cornerback?
You could argue the Trojans played their best defense of the season when Shaw was at cornerback earlier this season after Anthony Brown was lost with an injury.
You could counter that argument with the notion that Shaw, being as cerebral as he is, has been go-to guy for the rest of his teammates when it comes to resolving issues on the field. At safety, he’s a master communicator, has everything in front of him, and quarterback’s the defense to an extent.
When the question is posed to interim head coach Ed Orgeron, he says it all goes back to the best 11.
“There’s some give and take on everything,” Orgeron said.
After playing primarily as a cornerback last season, Shaw spent the entire offseason preparing himself for a return to safety. He even added close to 15 pounds in the process. Now seven games in and for the second time this season, he’s being asked to return to the island of cornerback, which is not an easy task.
He admitted with all of the switching of positions he hasn’t been able to get into a good rhythm at any of the positions he’s been called on to play.
“It’s really tough and he’s done a great job,” defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast said of Shaw. “It’s obviously a lot different footwork and a lot different vision in terms of where you’re at from your scope on the field but he’s been up to the challenge.”
Added Shaw: “If I’m playing corner, my mindset is set on playing corner for that week, so I’ll be fine.”
As of now neither Shaw or the coaching staff has committed to Shaw remaining at cornerback permanently, saying it will vary from week-to-week. Cornerback is, no doubt, a position of tremendous need.
Orgeron has made no bones about that and made it clear:
“We really struggled at the cornerback position as you guys know,” Orgeron said. “When he (Shaw) was there we weren’t struggling.”
Enter Shaw to try to duplicate his success from earlier this season.