The most challenging part of this week for the USC football team could very well be over. The distractions have been endless for the Trojans leading up to Saturday's season opener.
The silver lining in that is that they came before a home game against a heavy underdog.
"We can't wait to play in a little over 48 hours," Sarkisian said following a closed practice Thursday. "We were somewhat fortunate in that this came in a week of the first ballgame where we had a little bit extra time to prepare.
"Guys were attentive to details. I thought they were sharp in meetings this morning. I think they're in a really good frame of mind. I credit that to the leadership on this team."
Sarkisian rattled off the names of Hayes Pullard, Cody Kessler, Nelson Agholor and Leonard Williams as players who helped the team compartmentalize between on-field and off-the-field issues.
"We have some veteran guys that have been through a lot here and their ability to remain focused sent a great message to our players," Sarkisian said.
The commotion involving cornerback Josh Shaw could potentially die down now that the embattled senior has admitted he lied when he said he suffered two sprained ankles this past Saturday while saving his drowning newphew.
Sarkisian reiterated his disappointment in Shaw but said he could "potentially" return to the Trojans at some point this season. Shaw has been suspended indefinitely; his injury is expected to keep him out about four weeks.
"When the time is right, if the time is right to bring him back, we will," Sarkisian said. "We're in holding. It's still ongoing."
Shaw is named in an LAPD police report involving a disturbance at a downtown Los Angeles apartment complex, which the senior reportedly lives in. The incident occurred the same evening that Shaw said he injured himself.
Sarkisian said he still doesn't know how Shaw sprained his ankles. Sarkisian said Shaw made his confession Wednesday in the presence of his attorney, criminal defense lawyer Donald Etra.
"He didn't tell us and we weren't really privy to ask," Sarkisian said.
Sarkisian also apologized on behalf of the athletic department for hastily reporting the original story.
"It has as much to do with me as anybody else," Sarkisian said. "Moving forward we'll be a little more patient. We tried to get in front of it and it didn't work out for us. It's disappointing but we'll always continue to support Josh in his efforts. He's a Trojan. He made a mistake, which kids make. But we got to be here for him and help him get better."
On the field, USC has already started to move on.
Shaw was thought to be the team's top cornerback. His absence leaves an opening for redshirt freshman Chris Hawkins, who has more reps in defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox's new 3-4 base alignment than any other cornerback. It showed, as he had been competing with Kevon Seymour for a starting job.
As recently as Saturday, USC planned to redshirt seven of its true freshman. The odds of that have changed, with freshmen corners Jonathan Lockett and Lamont Simmons potentially being benefactors. Adoree' Jackson also figures to play more on defense.
"You go from playing a fifth-year senior to playing another freshman," Sarkisian said. "Our youth shows itself a little bit more. I still think we're talented back there."
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