USC Now mailbag: Josh Shaw, up-tempo offense, and recruiting

USC Now mailbag: Josh Shaw, up-tempo offense, and recruiting
USC cornerback Josh Shaw was suspended indefinitely by Coach Steve Sarkisian after he admitted to fabricating a story about saving his nephew to cover up an injury to both of his ankles. (Eugene Tanner / Associated Press)

Welcome back to the USC Now mailbag.

Questions about the Trojans? Email me at or tweet @LindseyThiry and you might see our questions in a future mailbag!


Thank goodness it's Friday -- because that means football is tomorrow.

Here are your questions from this week.

Terry Wilson asks: When will Josh Shaw likely return to playing football for SC?

Lindsey: The Josh Shaw situation remains murky.

Shaw was suspended indefinitely, and USC Coach Steve Sarkisian has given no indication when Shaw could return.

Shaw has been seen around the John McKay Center and is working out on his own.

Steve Curry, @scurryn, asks: Can Tre Madden and/or Josh Shaw redshirt?

Lindsey: Shaw cannot redshirt because he redshirted his first season at Florida in 2010. The NCAA allows athletes five years to play four seasons, so Shaw's eligibility will expire.

Tre Madden redshirted in 2012 after he suffered a knee injury.

Madden is a fourth-year junior whose eligibility will expire after next season.

He could apply for a medical redshirt after his final season of eligibility.

"Turnt Up," @TurntUpTrojan, asks: After I asked if Justin Davis would have a breakout game last week, I'll try for two weeks in a row. Will this week be Steven Mitchell?

Lindsey: You called it last week, "Turnt Up." If the evening at the Coliseum did not end somewhere near 1 a.m., I would have looked up your tweet and given you major props for predicting the breakout performance of Justin Davis.

Ajene Harris has been playing slot receiver for the Trojans, but is sidelined this week because of a hamstring injury.


Mitchell sat out last season while recovering from knee surgery. I don't think Mitchell will have a breakout performance against Arizona State, but I do expect him to play on offense and catch a couple of passes.

"SC Fresh," @onlyonefreez, asks: What's with the absence of Quinton Powell?

Lindsey: Absence of Quinton Powell? What do you mean? He's attended every game and practice this season.

Just joking, I know what you're saying.

Powell, an outside linebacker, came to USC as a highly regarded recruit from Florida, but he has not made a noticeable impact. He is contributing on special teams.

On this week's depth chart, Powell is listed as strong-side linebacker behind Scott Felix, Su'a Cravens, and Uchenna Nwosu.

Powell made a couple of standout plays during training camp, but has been quiet on the practice field since.

Joseph DiGiovanni, @giuseppejohnson, asks: ASU is the least-penalized team in the Pac-12 and USC is among the most. Do you see that playing a big factor?

Lindsey: Gary Klein took a look at the penalty situation earlier this week.

USC is the third-most penalized team in the Pac-12 (averaging nine penalties per game), while Arizona State is the least penalized (averaging 5.5 penalties per game).

Against Oregon State, the offensive line had multiple false starts, and the defense was called for face-mask penalties and holding. Sarkisian said it was a point of emphasis at practice this week for the defense to be more aware of hand placement.

Sarkisian said he was okay with the amount of penalties — as long as the officials called them consistently on both teams.

It will be interesting to see whether Arizona State is a much more disciplined team than USC or if it really comes down to how tight officials call the game.

Regardless, if there is a major discrepancy in penalties, it could affect the outcome.

"USC Trojans Football," @Trojan805_, asks: Is USC targeting any other defensive linemen in the 2015 class other than Rasheem Green? Maybe Joseph Wicker from Long Beach Poly?

Lindsey: Defensive lineman Rasheem Green of Gardena Serra High remains a top priority in USC's 2015 recruiting class, and there is a good chance he will sign a letter of intent with the school.

USC is also actively recruiting Honolulu's Canton Kaumatule from Punahou High. Kaumatule's brother, Luke, plays at Stanford — and Canton has said that he would like to play for the Cardinal. However, because of Stanford's academic admissions standards, he might not qualify.

USC assistant Johnny Nansen went to Honolulu to watch Kaumatule during the fall evaluation period.

Joseph Wicker has not reported an offer from USC.

Tarik LaCour, @LDSPhilospher1, asks: I have said since last year that Su'a Cravens should play linebacker. After that last game, do you think he stays there?

Lindsey: Cravens is staying at linebacker — at least for another week.

I spoke to defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox this week about Cravens and asked what position Cravens is best suited to play.

His response:  "What he's playing,"

Wilcox said Cravens was an "outside the box, strong safety-linebacker guy," adding that Cravens has the ability to play in coverage, rush the quarterback and stop the running game.

I do not necessarily think any position title for Cravens is permanent, given he can play multiple roles on the defense.

Burt Wilson of Sacramento asks: What happened to the hours of prep and all the big-time talk about the no-huddle, 100 plays-a-game new offense that Sark worked so hard on? Has it gone south? USC's offense today looks like every other offense, even those that use a huddle. Have great expectations run head-on into the reality wall?

Lindsey: Sarkisian has said USC wanted to run about 80 plays per game. Against Oregon State, USC ran 81 plays to Oregon State's 56.

The tempo, however, seemed slow at times. The offense hurries to the line of scrimmage, then stands around trying to get the play call.

By the end of the game, an up-tempo rhythm was developing. But four games into the season — USC's offense has hardly been up-tempo from start to finish.

Then again, it is only four games into the new system.

Calvin Lau asks: My question is, what do you prognosticate for the team's success this season?  The OSU game seemed to show that USC could muster up a big play when needed, both on defense and offense.  The youth are rising to the occasion.  A future trend?  Clutch plays on demand?

Lindsey: USC's Hail Mary pass to close the first half against Oregon State was a shock to the system. I'll admit, I did not see it coming.

USC's offense continues to leave me scratching my head at times.


The Trojans have so many explosive play makers, yet they don't throw the ball downfield regularly. When they do, it usually results in great plays.

The play-calling against Oregon State was much improved from what we saw against Stanford and Boston College. If the offense continues that trend, it may be on to something.

As far as the team's success this season, that's tough to forecast because of the Pac-12.

UCLA has not looked fantastic, but routed Arizona State. Arizona just upset Oregon in Eugene, Ore., and Utah lost to Washington State -- just to name a few recent games that stood out.

Arizona's victory over the Ducks sets up a very intriguing game next week between USC and Arizona – if the Trojans can dispatch Arizona State on Saturday.

The conference appears to be any team's to win.

Question about USC? Email me at or tweet @LindseyThiry and I will answer select questions in a weekly USC Now mailbag.