Bryson Shaw, having come from Ohio State, already knows what it is like to have championship expectations at a college football program. The difference between Ohio State and USC, however, is that the Buckeyes were an already-established power when Shaw played for them. USC is a former power which has fallen on hard times but is expected to regroup this season and become nationally relevant again.
That detail matters when evaluating Shaw and the other members of a highly-scrutinized USC defense which is expected to struggle early in the season. Let’s realize that remaking USC into an elite program won’t happen instantaneously, especially on defense. We could say that the offense will instantly be elite, given the total transformation on that side of the ball, starting with Caleb Williams and continuing with Jordan Addison. However, on defense, that’s where the wreckage of the Clay Helton era is still visible.
As Bryson Shaw and other players on the USC defense try to change their identity and their level of performance, they do have to realize that a transformation process will take some time. It will require patience.
This does not mean mistakes should be calmly shrugged off. It does mean that mistakes should not cause a crisis in confidence. Failure needs to be learned from. It must translate into growth when it occurs.
This also means not trying to be a hero on the field. Making simple plays, working within the system, and containing damage will work for the USC defense this year.
Let’s be honest: The 2022 Trojans are not going to become the 1985 Chicago Bears or the 1975 Pittsburgh Steelers. If this defense can hold opponents to an average of 28 points per game, that would be a very good result, since the offense has a chance to average 40 points per game.
Bryson Shaw needs to lead his teammates, but he also needs to be patient in this larger process.
There’s one final thing to say about Shaw and other USC players battling for spots on the depth chart: Whether a player starts or backs up on the USC defense shouldn’t be seen as overly important. The Rice game will give starters and backups plenty of reps. It’s less about starting, more about being ready and able to contribute when called upon.
That mindset requires patience and maturity. It’s what USC hopes Bryson Shaw can deliver for the Trojans this year.
We talked about Shaw with Mark Rogers at The Voice of College Football.