A successful adjustment

Move from safety to cornerback has been a blessing for sophomore Josh Shaw

Updated: October 26, 2012, 2:08 PM ET
By Johnny Curren | WeAreSC.com

LOS ANGELES -- For Josh Shaw, change has most certainly been a good thing.

Josh Shaw
Otto Greule Jr/Getty ImagesSophomore Josh Shaw has been able to celebrate two interceptions thus far this season.
It was just a little more than three weeks ago that the Florida transfer, who arrived on campus this past spring, was buried on the depth chart as the team's No. 3 strong safety -- his playing time limited primarily to special teams and mop-up duty.

But with the Trojans searching for an answer to the inconsistent play that has plagued the cornerback spot opposite Nickell Robey, the redshirt sophomore moved outside during the week leading up to the Oct. 13 matchup with Washington to compete with Torin Harris and Kevon Seymour, among others.

And with just a few days of practice at the new position under his belt, not only would Shaw see the field against the Huskies, but injuries to Harris and Seymour allowed him to play a majority of the game. He more than held his own, making five tackles and collecting a fourth-quarter interception -- his second of the season -- that would help seal a 24-14 victory.

"I think Josh did about as good as you can expect for somebody who just got put over there," USC coach Lane Kiffin said later. "He's very competitive, a good tackler and did a really good job for just throwing him in there like that."

Gaining at least some semblance of trust from Kiffin and the defensive staff with his performance, Shaw was thrust into the starting lineup for the first time as a Trojan against Colorado last weekend, and thus, his transformation from little-known backup safety to big-time contributor at cornerback -- all in the span of two weeks -- was complete.

"I'm glad I have this opportunity to really come out here and help these guys on Saturdays," Shaw said. "It's just been exciting."

Standing 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds, Shaw brings a unique combination of size, athleticism and physicality that USC doesn't otherwise possess at the position.

Of course, Shaw wasn't completely new to the cornerback spot. He actually practiced there for a brief time in fall camp and starred at the position as a Class of 2010 standout at Palmdale (Calif.) High School long before that. Recruited by powerhouse programs from coast to coast, he eventually elected for a change of scenery and signed with the Florida Gators.

Moving over to safety once in Gainesville -- where he would redshirt in his initial season and play sporadically in his second -- Shaw decided to transfer to USC, due in part to his desire to be closer to his grandfather and father, who both were dealing with health issues.

Granted a hardship waiver by the NCAA, Shaw was deemed eligible to compete for the Trojans immediately, opening the door for last Saturday's start.

"I really enjoyed it," Shaw said. "It was my first start in the Coliseum. I really enjoyed my time out there with those guys ... guys like T.J. [McDonald], Jawanza [Starling] and Nickell [Robey]."

But the transition back to cornerback -- after spending virtually his entire college career at safety -- hasn't come without its challenges.

"It is a big adjustment," Shaw said. "When you're at corner, you're out there on the island, so you have to win your one-on-one matchup. If not, you'll be exposed."

Shaw learned that the hard way against the Buffaloes, losing track of the ball on an apparent touchdown pass to Colorado receiver Gerald Thomas. Fortunately for Shaw, the score was taken off the board when it was discovered upon review that the receiver's foot was out of bounds when he made the catch.

"I was looking back in the backfield instead of really keying my receiver, and I bit on a double move," Shaw said. "I was just too aggressive on that play."

Intent on learning from his mistakes, Shaw -- who is currently listed as the co-starter along with Harris on the most recent depth chart -- has sped up his development with his work on the practice field and extra hours in the film room, not to mention some tutelage from a certain All-Pac-12 teammate.

"Nickell [Robey] helps me out every day, just with the little stuff," Shaw said. "We can just be walking to class or something and we'll be talking, and he has a lot of knowledge. He's a great cornerback, so I'm like a sponge trying to get information from him."

The education of Shaw will continue this Saturday with a huge test against Arizona's high-powered, spread-option offense. Led by quarterback Matt Scott, the Wildcats rank No. 5 in the nation with 352.3 yards passing per game.

"They're a great team," Shaw said. "They're very explosive, very balanced, a great running back, a great quarterback and their receiving corps is the best receiving corps we've gone against this season. So we've definitely got our work cut out."

The Trojans secondary has a tall order on its hands to be sure, but it's safe to say that Shaw is more than up for the challenge, just thankful to be where he is today.

"I have to say that I'm truly blessed," Shaw said. "I was able to transfer over here and be closer to home, be closer to my family, which was a huge need, and I was granted to play this year -- I didn't have to sit out. And on top of that, I'm playing with a great group of guys. I've never been with a team that's this close and family-oriented. So I couldn't ask for anything better."

Johnny Curren

WeAreSC, Reporter