LOS ANGELES — Defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox tried to downplay it as a typical Wednesday morning practice at No. 24 Southern California, only with "more people on the sideline," but the return of defensive back Josh Shaw from suspension made it anything but.
Shaw worked at cornerback and on special teams after being reinstated Tuesday night following investigations by the Los Angeles County district attorney's office and the university. The senior missed the first 10 games of the season after lying about how he sprained both of his ankles in a fall days before the Trojans' season opener.
Shaw claimed he was hurt jumping from a balcony to rescue a nephew who was drowning in a pool in his native Palmdale. The DA's office said he actually jumped 20 feet from the balcony of a downtown Los Angeles apartment following an argument with his girlfriend in late August.
Shaw moved well Wednesday and showed no apparent effects from the injuries, but how much Shaw might play against No. 11 UCLA on Saturday, if he plays at all, is still unclear.
"Obviously from a game-plan standpoint, we really don't know," coach Steve Sarkisian said. "It's one day in. But all in all, Josh brings us a veteran player with a lot of experience. We'll see how far we can take it with him here in a short amount of time."
Shaw was stripped of his team captaincy and will not speak to reporters until after USC's bowl game. That left Shaw's teammates and coaches to deal with a media contingent that exceeded the typical rivalry week throng.
"I was happy, really happy to have one of our brothers back that we had been missing," senior linebacker and team captain Hayes Pullard said.
"I was actually expecting him to be back a lot sooner," defensive lineman Leonard Williams said. "I know it is obviously a process and takes time for that stuff to happen, but at the same time I wasn't thinking too much about it during the season."
"He just came out here humbly, quiet, just worked and just tried to get accepted by his team again," Williams added.
The return of Shaw gives USC some much-needed depth in the secondary. Shaw was named All-Pac-12 honorable mention last season after making 67 tackles and four interceptions and returning a blocked punt for a touchdown.
And while he has experience playing safety, a position where USC has been hit hard by injuries and reduced numbers because of scholarship reductions, defensive backs coach Keith Heyward indicated Shaw would stay at corner and called his presence a "bonus" akin to adding a "free agent" during the season.
"He is a strong, tall, long DB that can cover one on one and that can run and will tackle," Heyward said. "I think he is a guy that can lock up a receiver. That's what he was showing in fall camp."
Wilcox said that freshman Adoree Jackson and junior Kevon Seymour would remain the starting corners against the Bruins, but the return of Shaw could allow Jackson to contribute more on offense. Jackson has six receptions for 49 yards and one touchdown this season, and he had a 42-yard touchdown catch against California negated by a holding penalty.
Whether or not Shaw plays this week, everyone was adamant that his presence would not deter USC from the aim of breaking a two-game losing streak against UCLA.
"Where we go from here is yet to be seen. I guess we'll all find out Saturday at 5 o'clock," Heyward said. "It's just good to have him back, but we're not going to do anything to hurt us from beating UCLA."
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