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USC Football Hoping to Avoid Josh Shaw Distraction

The Trojans are focused on beating Fresno State, period.

This situation could define Sarkisian's USC legacy.
This situation could define Sarkisian's USC legacy.
Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

In spite of the growing controversy surrounding Josh Shaw, his whereabouts and how the team is responding, USC has worked diligently to silence these distractions and move their focus on beating Fresno State.

Following a shoulder-padded only practice on Howard Jones Field, the mood quickly shifted from breaking down Fresno State's attack to figuring out how to fill the shoes of redshirt senior Josh Shaw.

"We're not going to let something on the outside affect what we have to work on. Our goal is just to beat Fresno and that has nothing to do with us beating Fresno," said Leonard Williams, describing this 48-hour media frenzy.

The Trojans continue game-week preparations, and coach Sarkisian has remained firm in his stance that this program can handle anything that comes their way.

"My main focus is going out and playing a great football game on Saturday," Sarkisian said following Wednesday's practice. "As much as we have the situation with Josh, I have another 104 football players I have to get ready to play."

That mindset quickly transferred over to many of the top players, who all met with coach Sarkisian for an intensive two minute meeting before finally addressing the media.

Among the players available for comment, captains Hayes Pullard and Leonard Williams took the barrage of questions, mostly surrounding their fellow captain. To be honest, none of the players have made contact with Shaw since Salute to Troy and that isolation has almost brought the team together --in spite of this disturbing cycle of reports.

"We're still close as heck. We keep everything in the locker room," said two-time defensive captain, and good friend Hayes Pullard. "Our team has our bond together and even though we're off the field we still have that bond as well."

As the entire program continues to embrace the practice grind, the distractions of numerous media cameras only there for one purpose, ending this Josh Shaw story, players are used to clearing things out before game time.

"I don't worry about it," Sark says. "We get into preparation mood and we got jobs to do."

While the media-savvy message may ring true among the leaders, players on the field are working to silence the distractions. No one on Fresno State will feel sorry for what USC's been through, and this program has faced plenty of controversy in years past --mostly centered around the antics of former coach Lane Kiffin.

With a new head coach in place, the direction of this program could massively be scripted over how coach Sarkisian handles this media nightmare, which all erupted from the internal handling of this story from the start.

"We've put in too much work over the last nine months to let an hour or two of social media and internet reports distract us from being a great football team," Sarkisian explained.

"If it does, then that's not a good sign moving forward. We have to be strong enough to handle adversity whether it's on the football field or off the field and continue to hang together, to be together and go out and play great football."