Time again for the USC Now mailbag.
Question: Just as Boston College rode an emotional bandwagon, might USC come together as a team in conjunction with the Josh Shaw saga, to play a complete game from beginning to end, or at least finish strong, ala Pete Carroll in his USC prime? Clearly USC's got talent, but can the Trojans perform?
--Calvin Lau, Los Angeles
Reply: If there is a type of situation this team has handled extremely well this season, it has been distractions.
From the start of the Shaw situation, to Anthony Brown accusing Coach Steve Sarkisian of being a racist to Pat Haden running down to the sideline at Stanford – the players do not seem fazed by the chaotic atmosphere that often surrounds the program.
Maybe it’s because chaos is what they have grown accustomed to over the last three seasons?
The timing for Shaw’s return, in the middle of preparation for UCLA, seemed like it could not come at a worse time: What a distraction to handle with the biggest game of the season approaching.
But if it was a distraction, the team showed no signs of it.
I don’t think Shaw will provide an emotional spark, but he will provide a physical one. Sarkisian said Shaw would play against UCLA. Where? We are uncertain – though most likely on special teams and, if I were a betting gal, on defense, too.
Question: Will Bryce Dixon be available on Saturday vs. UCLA?
--Fernando Huizar, @Nando1287
Sarkisian said Thursday that he had “nothing to report” on Dixon.
Reply: The freshman tight end was sidelined last Thursday against California because of a “student-conduct issue,” Sarkisian said.
Dixon practiced this week.
It will likely be a game-day announcement on whether Dixon will be available.
Question: Why are we using Toa Lobendahn at left tackle when he is a perfect center and Max Tuerk is a perfect left tackle?
--Tarik LaCour, @USCPhilosopher5
Reply: That’s a great question and is the scenario many thought would happen when left tackle Chad Wheeler suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee.
Tuerk played left tackle as a freshman and left guard as a sophomore before he was moved to center last spring. Tuerk’s snaps have been erratic at times, but he said the last two weeks have been more consistent because he started wearing a glove on his hand to prevent the ball from slipping because of sweat.
Lobendahn, who played left tackle in high school, took reps at left guard and center during summer workouts and fall camp. The freshman looked good at center and his snaps appeared more consistent than Tuerk’s.
Tuerk could be at center because he has a better knowledge of the offense, is a more vocal leader and the coaches trust him more because of his experience.
If building toward the future played a role in the decision, I would put Tuerk at left tackle and Lobendahn at center. Wheeler would return to left tackle and Tuerk would finish his career at left guard.
Question: What happened to Devian Shelton? Have not seen him on the field.
Reply: Shelton, a third-year sophomore cornerback, has not played this season.
He is listed third on the depth chart behind Kevon Seymour and Jonathan Lockett.
Shelton played last season at Hawaii before he suffered a foot injury that required surgery and sidelined him the rest of the season.
Sarkisian indicated earlier this season that Shelton needed to improve to get onto the field during games.
Question: I was wondering where Max Wittek ultimately ended up?
Reply: Wittek, who left USC after his redshirt sophomore season, is at Hawaii and is listed at quarterback on the Rainbow Warriors’ roster.
He will be eligible next season.
Questions or comments about Trojans? Email me at LNThiry@gmail.com or tweet @LindseyThiry and I will respond to select messages in a future mailbag!