USC's Josh Shaw is often seen and not heard
LOS ANGELES --Josh Shaw approached his locker inside the McKay Center earlier this week and found a pleasant surprise.
His No. 26 jersey was replaced with No. 6.
Shaw requested the single digit number last spring, but was turned aside and told number changes are only done in the fall.
The supply is far less than the demand of single digit numbers, so they're handed out judiciously.
USC head coach Lane Kiffin says he likes to wait before honoring such requests to make sure the player earns it.
Shaw earned it.
"Seeing how he had approached this offseason and the new defense -- (he's) really the leader in the back end back there -- and the way he's taken young kids under his wing, I just thought it was a good thing," Kiffin said of Shaw's number swap.
Shaw was one of the stars of new defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast's defense last week at Hawaii. He had a tackle for loss, a pass defended, and a 35-yard interception return for touchdown that put the Trojans up 17-5 in the second quarter.
"It was the first time I've touched the endzone since high school," said the Palmdale High School alum. "When we came into meetings, (Kiffin) said that was his favorite play of the entire game. You just seen guys hustling and trying to lead me into the endzone."
It was fitting also. Under Pendergast the USC defense is far more aggressive than they've been in recent years. They don't only want to create turnovers but they want to cash them in for six themselves.
Shaw is the player Pendergast has been the most complimentary of since taking over for Monte Kiffin. It seemed only right Shaw would be the first defender to light up the scoreboard for the USC defense.
"It was great for him," Pendergast said. "The whole team was excited. As a team, we were happy that we scored a touchdown."
When Shaw steps onto the field he becomes a different person. Away from the game, he's often seen and not heard from much. But all of that changes when he puts the pads on.
"He's a whole different person on the field," safety Su'a Cravens said. "He'll walk around here quiet as a mouse, but when he's on the field he's yapping at everybody, telling everybody 'let's go.' Probably one of the most juiced dudes on the team."
Cravens, Shaw and Dion Bailey are a source of flexibility for Pendergast and the defense. All three are interchangeable at three different safety spots in the defensive backfield.
However, Shaw's skillset in the defensive backfield doesn't just end at safety. He can also play cornerback. Shaw played there for the Trojans last season and has been receiving reps there this season as well. With the statuses of Anthony Brown and Kevon Seymour hanging in the balance after both left the game at Hawaii with injuries, Shaw could be called on to return to corner.
Wherever he lines up on Saturday against Washington State, he'll be doing it with No. 6 on his back.
"I just like the way it looks," Shaw said about his new number. "I love it."