USC Football: Secondary is the Pac-12’s Best if Josh Shaw Can Play



The NCAA will soon be deciding on the hardship waiver to determine the immediate eligibility of safety Josh Shaw, a transfer out of Florida who enrolled in USC’s spring semester back in January. Just how good could the Trojans’ secondary be with Shaw in 2012? Tops in the conference.

Shaw started once under Will Muschamp at Florida last fall, after redshirting in 2010. Should the NCAA grant his waiver request, he’d have three years of eligibility at USC, two of which coming after the impending graduations of the Trojan safeties.

Should Shaw get to play this season, the Trojans will return five players with significant NCAA experience, including Shaw. At the corners, the Trojans return starters from 2011, Nickell Robey and Torin Harris, while at the safety spots, both T.J. McDonald and Jawanza Starling return for Troy.

Shaw would compete with soon-to-be senior Drew McAllister, as the extra man in the defensive backfield, with Shaw’s speed enabling him to play the nickel, should Monte Kiffin deploy a five-man secondary against a team like Washington State, who will spread the field under the run and shoot offense of Mike Leach.

Shaw was a cornerback in high school, and with the Kiffins’ knack of moving people around this spring, the notion of Shaw being a nickel isn’t entirely out of left field. The Trojans did it under Pete Carroll with Josh Pinkard, and it worked for Rocky Seto’s secondary. With Shaw’s skill set similar to that of Pinkard, it just could work.

With Shaw, the Trojans would be able to have a versatile secondary with plenty of depth. McAllister has been dinged up all spring, and with Gerald Bowman having to sit out camp and Demetrious Wright switching positions to outside linebacker, the Trojans need the depth at safety. Bowman was one of the best non-D-1 players in the country last year at Pierce College, playing in a similar mold to McDonald.

At the corner spots, the Trojans have plenty of depth but limited experience within that depth, something Shaw could aid with, should he be played as a nickel as mentioned earlier. Torin Harris returns at corner, as do Anthony Brown, Isiah Wiley, Brian Baucham and Tony Burnett.

All in all, looking at the rosters throughout the conference, having Shaw would put the Trojans over the top talent-wise and experience-wise in the secondary. The only school that might come close? The Washington Huskies, as they have a playmaking safety in Sean Parker to go with incoming phenom Shaq Thompson.

Having the best secondary in the Pac-12 is far cry of where the Trojans were back in 2010, but the play of 2011 and the progressions since, have shown that the Trojans are adapting well to Monte Kiffin’s Tampa-2 defensive scheme. Pete Carroll always wanted USC to become D-BackU and it never happened. Perhaps that changes the longer Monte Kiffin stays, but we’ve got a long way to go before then.