LOS ANGELES-This just might wind up being the Year of JuJu. That would be a good thing for the USC Trojans. Even with a roster full of exceptional playmakers, wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster may just be the best of them all. Let’s go down the line and sum up the top players on this year’s USC football team and assess the talent pool to see where Smith-Schuster stacks up.
Quarterback Cody Kessler is a Heisman Trophy candidate. Do everything defensive back/kick returner Adoree’ Jackson is a one-man highlight reel. Linebacker Su’a Cravens is the team’s defensive train wrecker. Fellow defender Jabari Ruffin is always one step away from bringing the pain to opposing running backs and quarterbacks.
All-American and top-rated depth at all the skill positions run deep. Receivers Jalen Greene, De’Quan Hampton and Steven Mitchell Jr. can all start just about anywhere in the country. No. 9 for the Trojans, however, just happens to be one bad dude. He’s trouble for opponents. He is a jersey full of strength, speed and ferocity.
Besides his obvious physical gifts of speed and strength, Smith-Schuster seems to play the game with mean intentions, a thought to dominate defenders lining up to stop him. In case you need a reference point, just ask Idaho, USC’s second opponent of the season. USC made quick work of the Vandals on Saturday at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Smith-Schuster was a big reason why.
USC’s 59-9 beat down of Idaho almost played second-fiddle to being an afterthought after watching Smith-Schuster play against the Vandals. The sophomore stud from Long Beach Poly High School, has clearly immersed himself as being the guy for the Trojans. When Smith-Schuster is on the field, good things happen for the Trojans. No, big things happen. Arkansas State got a teaser of what Smith-Shuster can do in the Trojans’ 55-6 season-opening win.
Smith-Schuster wound up with a pedestrian four catches and 89 yards and one touchdown grab in a couple of hours of play. One catch, however, turned out to be a 61-yard touchdown in the first quarter of that game where Smith bounded off of a couple of would-be tacklers and sprinted the rest of the way to the endzone. Idaho received more than a mouthful of Smith-Schuster’s talents.
They received the full brunt of the physicality and dominance that Smith-Schuster brings to the table and is capable of doing against any team. Smith-Schuster came up with up with a highlight afternoon for himself with 10 catches, 192 yards in receiving and score two touchdowns. He looked like a man playing among boys. The two scores he touched paydirt on went for 50 and 41 yards,respectfully, as he simply ran past Idaho’s hapless defensive secondary.
Opponents can expect more of the same the rest of the season from Smith-Schuster. This guy is not a one-trick pony (pun the expression). The scary thing is he is only going to get better. When Nelson Agholor took his talents to the NFL and the Philadelphia Eagles, the departure might have appeared to be leaving a gaping hole in the Trojans’ wide receiving corps.
That void has clearly been filled with Smith-Schuster taking his game to the next level thus far. That’s going to be a needed commodity in the Pac-12 Conference South Division. Last season, Smith-Schuster caught 54 passes for 724 yards and five touchdowns. He’s hot on pace to surpass the marks he set during his freshman year.
The way he’s played during USC’s first two games, Smith-Schuster may achieve that midway into this college football season. That would be all bad for every one else, but it will be all good for the Trojans.