USC defensive back Nickell Robey will be patrolling the secondary once… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
The return of every starting linebacker and defensive back already figured to make USC's back seven formidable this season.
The Trojans got potentially stronger Thursday when the NCAA granted Josh Shaw's hardship waiver, making the Florida transfer immediately eligible.
"This is like the happiest day of my life," said Shaw, a third-year sophomore defensive back.
The 6-foot-1, 200-pound Shaw played in 10 games at Florida last season, starting once. Florida granted the Palmdale High graduate his release to transfer because of his grandfather's and father's health issues, and he enrolled at USC in January.
Given the NCAA's unpredictability, USC Coach Lane Kiffin said that he was not surprised the waiver was granted — and that he would not have been surprised if it had been turned down and Shaw had to sit out a season.
But Kiffin and USC officials were monitoring the case closely, especially after the NCAA granted Amir Carlisle immediate eligibility when the tailback transferred from USC to Notre Dame in the off-season.
Shaw has not practiced because of a rib injury, but he is expected to compete for playing time after proving himself in the Southeastern Conference.
Kiffin said Shaw "has all the right tools" to help the Trojans.
"We saw him run around and move around before he got hurt," Kiffin said, "so it will be great not just on defense but, obviously, special teams."
Nickell Robey started every game last season at one cornerback spot and Isiah Wiley started the final six at the other after Torin Harris and Anthony Brown suffered injuries. All are back.
T.J. McDonald and Jawanza Starling are returning starters at safety. Demetrius Wright and Drew McAllister also played last season. All return, and Gerald Bowman, a transfer from Los Angeles Pierce College, is scheduled to enroll in the fall.
Shaw said he could play safety or cornerback. And though he has not been able to practice, he has been indoctrinated into the Trojans' culture by roommate McDonald, a team captain.
"Every day I'm asking questions," Shaw said. "We were up [Wednesday] night to about 1 a.m., going over football stuff. ... I pick his brain as much as I can."
The Bowl Championship Series title game will be played in January in Florida. Shaw can envision a matchup between the Trojans and an SEC opponent.
"That would be a dream come true," he said. "Go out there and shut those guys up and show that we can beat those teams out there."
Kiffin said the Trojans would not tackle during the end-of-spring workout Saturday at the Coliseum, which is open to the public and begins at 1:30 p.m. Tickets are $10, parking $15. School officials said parking lots open at 8 a.m., stadium gates at 12:30 p.m. An autograph session will be held on the field after the workout. ... USC players will participate Saturday in a relay race during USC's annual "Swim With Mike" fundraiser, which helps finance the school's Physically Challenged Athletes Scholarship Fund. ... USC President Max Nikias attended part of practice and spoke with Kiffin and quarterback Matt Barkley. ... Max Browne, a junior quarterback from Washington who committed to USC last week, and David Sills, a freshman quarterback from Delaware who committed to the Trojans two years ago, were among recruits watching practice.