LOS ANGELES — After Bryson Shaw had jumped the route, after he had completed the interception, after he had returned the ball into Arizona territory, the transfer safety jogged off to the USC sidelines.
There, a mob of teammates was waiting to crowd around him and hit his helmet in celebration.
“He deserved that game he just played in,” defensive lineman Tuli Tuipulotu said of the response from Shaw’s teammates. “He’s been working hard, getting extra work in. I always see that, working with (strength coach Bennie Wylie) and stuff. He deserved it, he earned it.”
Shaw transferred to USC in the late spring after his sophomore season at Ohio State. He finished third on the Buckeyes in tackles with 59 while adding three deflections, an interception and a fumble recovery while starting 12 games in 2021.
At USC, it was a chance for him to reunite with defensive coordinator Alex Grinch, who recruited Shaw to Ohio State but left for Oklahoma before the two could truly work together.
“Just coming out of high school, I felt like him and I connected really well,” Shaw said. “Very intense guy, and I think I’m pretty intense myself. Instant bond right off the bat.”
But his late addition to the USC roster, and at safety, a position of rare depth for the Trojans’ defense, meant that Shaw had to bide his time before getting the chance to play for USC.
Combined with injuries in training camp, Shaw had to wait deep into the season for a real opportunity. But he kept working in practice and in the weight room, earning the respect of his teammates.
“I’m always positive, never look too negative. Never too down on myself, never too high on myself, kind of just a straight line,” Shaw said. “Just keep working, keep coming to work every day, keep fighting and swinging and let it all play out. I’m truly blessed to be out here.”
But a series of injuries forced USC to get creative with its scheme in the 45-38 victory over the Wildcats. Grinch installed some one-linebacker, dime packages with Shaw coming in as the additional defensive back.
After four tackles in USC’s first seven games, Shaw recorded seven tackles (one for a loss) last weekend. In addition to the interception, he had a pass breakup and earned Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week honors.
“Just a guy doing his job,” Grinch said. “Proud of him, and that’s a good thing for us. We need more players stepping up.”
TUIPULOTU ADDS NEW ROLE
Tuipulotu has agreed to play any role asked of him on the defensive line at USC, moving from his natural end position to tackle when the Trojans’ depth issues have required.
On Saturday against Arizona, he added a new job to his resume: Linebacker.
With USC’s linebackers corps depleted by injury, Tuipulotu moved back a level for a few plays against the Wildcats. Largely, he just blitzed from the position, but it was a change for the junior, who has never played linebacker before.
“It’s cool just playing different stuff and blitzing,” Tuipulotu said. “It was pretty easy just because I already know the gaps I’m supposed to be in. Being a person in the defense, You gotta know everybody’s job. I gotta know everybody’s job on D-line so I know what gaps they have so I’m reacting off of that.”