Distraction? What distraction?

With the return of Josh Shaw 10 games into the season and in the middle of UCLA week, the trick for the Trojans was to welcome Josh back and not take their eyes off Saturday's game. It looks like they may have done just that.

Josh Shaw is back. That's the news peg for Wednesday's USC practice.

Saturday's UCLA game and a possible Pac-12 South title for the winner in the Crosstown Rivalry wouldn't account for all the TV cameras and extra media here. Not that you could exactly ignore it.

But that's what USC players and coaches pretty much managed to do. And again, no biggie, as Steve Sarkisian would say.

"The one positive" for his team, Sark said, is that "with all the things that have gone on this season, this isn't a big deal."

"We just signed a free agent," secondary coach Keith Heyward said with a laugh. It's kind of an NFL deal, you might say. Players come and players go and they have to be ready to play.

"There's no catching-up to do," Heyward said of Josh, who as Sark and defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox said, moved well and with fluidity. He's clearly been working out.

That was the first thing for Sark. "I wanted to see him run," he said of Shaw, who will not be available to the media until a bowl game. "He's had more media attention than he could have ever wanted."

But there are two more issues before he'll hit the field although on Wednesday, Shaw did step in on the second group in kickoff coverage and worked with the nickel defenders at times.

Sark said he wanted to see Shaw's "confidence level with the defense and the calls" and maybe more importantly for a young USC secondary that's just now communicating in ways to earn their coaches' confidence, Sark said it would be "our comfort level with him and the calls and integrating him into that."

It's obviously not going to happen right away although if UCLA is in a Hail Mary situation, Josh had better be on the field. Of course, a barely-rehabbed-from-his-sprained-ankles Josh would have been the right guy on the field at the end of the Arizona State game, even in his street clothes right out of the stands. Just sayin'.

So now Sark has decided to take the captain's "C" off Josh's game jersey -- in addition to the 10-game suspension. A severe penalty, unlike that you might see elsewhere in the landscape of college football? Of course.

"Yes I do," Sark said when asked if he thought it was severe. "But the offense was severe" as well, he said.

We'd probably rather see Josh conduct the TMB on Art Bartner's ladder after a win. Absent that, none of this matters all that much this week in the big picture.

It's great that Josh is back. He should have been back weeks ago. Nothing is known this week by the LAPD and USC, in its own timely due diligence, that wasn't knowable by the end of September.

So now Josh is more of a sidebar here, maybe a footnote. But one that matters. As did the discussion after practice, if not the actual practice itself, made clear.

What they're saying about Josh

*** Hayes Pullard: Hayes said he did not believe Josh from the first moment he heard his "saving his nephew from drowning" story as the reason for his sprained ankles instead of leaping off his apartment's balcony when the police arrived in response to a neighbor's call about a loud argument between Josh and his longtime girfriend.

"As soon as I heard the story, I didn't believe it," Pullard said. "But once he told me man-to-man the next week what he'd done, I forgave him on the spot . . . we all forgave him . . . and we're happy to see him get the chance to come back."

*** DC Wilcox: "Adoree [Jackson] is our starting corner. Kevon Seymour is our starting corner . . . he [Josh] practiced fine . . . we'll see where it goes from here. It's one practice."

*** Su'a Cravens: "We forgave him right after we heard from him," Su'a said. "It's good to have him back." For lots of reasons. "Josh was a first-round draft pick before the season and he's a first-round draft pick now . . . He's a great athlete . . . I'm confident in him."

*** Corner Jackson: "He'll see me or text me," the freshman said of Josh, "and say he was proud of the work I've done. You do miss him being around. He's a great person. I'm glad to have him back."

*** Sarkisian: "He has been extremely remorseful," Sark said of his challenge to evaluate whether Josh's action "was out of character for him," when it finally "came across my desk," he said, on Tuesday afternoon. Sark's decision: It was out of character -- "absolutely."

Putting brakes on Brett

The question is how do you defend a mobile, accurate, 225-pound veteran quarterback who has torn USC up the last two years? Good question for the man in charge of USC's defensive gameplan, coordinator Wilcox.

Here's the problem, Wilcox says. "If there were one answer" [like spying Hundley with someone like Cravens or Pullard], other teams would have done something like that. Not that Wilcox says he isn't looking for answers.

Asked if he's taken another look at the USC-UCLA film from a year ago when Hundley put up 35 points on the Trojans, or that of his Washington team that gave up 41 to Hundley & Co., Wilcox said: "You watch everybody." And hope somebody has an answer for you.

Wilcox wasn't giving anything away, talking about the three or four ways you can try to limit "Hundley's mobility." The problem is, Wilcox said, "You still have to defend the rest of their players."

But if USC decides to spy Hundley with Cravens, for example, Su'a said he's ready to give it a try. "I did it in the [CIF] championship game every year," he said. And he'll be ready to do it Saturday if called on.

"That's Coach Wilcox's decision -- and Sark's," he said. And if he gets that call Saturday, "It'll be a big surprise for everybody."

But more important than anything for the Trojans, Su'a said, is not to let last year happen again in this game: "We let our emotions get the best of us," he said, "we just have to calm down and play our game."


J.R. Tavai, John Plattenburg, Soma Vainuku and Ajene Harris are all doing fine, Sark notes, 10 games into the season . . . this USC team is in a pretty good place as far as injuries and player availability are concerned . . . still no answer on the availability of Bryce Dixon, who got a full workout again Wednesday as if the freshman tight end was going to play . . . He'll know "maybe this afternoon," Sark said of the "student conduct" process that's working its way out for him, maybe tomorrow . . . no yellow jerseys for Leon McQuay III and Chris Hawkins in what was essentially a noncontact practice but those two certainly did not look limited in any way . . . USC's practice schedule has the Trojans at 8:45 a.m. Thursday in a closed workout.

For a wrapup of Wednesday's practice, check out See what USC Trojan fans are saying here

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