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USC's JuJu Smith-Schuster, stiff-arm legend, eyes Alabama

USC receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster needs your help. He has no nicknames or descriptive phrases for his notorious and effective stiff-arm, a move that was immortalized last October when he firmly planted previously trash-talking Utah cornerback Dominique Hatfield onto the Coliseum turf along the Trojans' sideline.

"If you come up with something, let me know," a refreshed and healthy Smith-Schuster said, eyeballing USC's first spring practice Tuesday.

A quick potential top 10: "Talk to the hand"; "Call me on my cell phone"; "Pardon my reach"; "Giving you the Heisman"; "Aloha Mr. Hand!"; "High-five? High-five? Naaa!"; "How about some bad JuJu?"; "Yeah, it's real grass. Let me show you"; "Here's a free sideline pass"; and "Does my palm smell like shut up?"

Don't scoff. This is serious business. Names matter. For one, Smith-Schuster's name on his driver's license is "John Smith." Yeah, not nearly as cool or memorable as the name that will be inscribed on nearly every preseason All-American team this August.

Smith-Schuster, who added "Schuster" to his name last year as a tribute to his stepfather, led the Pac-12 and ranked 11th in the nation with 103.9 yards receiving per game in 2015. He averaged a stout 16.3 yards per reception and scored 10 touchdowns while earning first-team All-Pac-12 and second-team All-American honors.

So pretty much everyone already knows who he is. For those who don't, USC opens its 2016 season against defending national champion Alabama in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on Sept. 3. It's a matchup that will inspire monumental pregame hype as not only an intersectional showdown between two perennial powers from the SEC and Pac-12 but also one that has plenty of history to it.

“If you are not watching it, I don’t know what else you would be doing," Smith-Schuster said. “It could be the game of the year, the history between Alabama and USC is amazing. So it means a lot. But right now we are just focusing on ourselves, just getting better this spring.”

USC shouldn't be too distracted by Alabama, as it has a pretty lengthy spring checklist, starting at quarterback and then advancing to a defensive line in need of rebuilding.

As for the QB competition, Smith-Schuster betrays no favorite. Here's what he provided when asked for a one-sentence scouting report on the top three candidates:

Max Browne: “He has more of the power arm.”

Sam Darnold: “He has more accuracy.”

Jalen Greene: “He’s more the speed guy who can move out of the pocket.”

As for himself, Smith-Schuster, whose "JuJu" nickname was given to him by an aunt when he was young and "JoJo" didn't stick, the offseason focus was first getting healthy, then speed work.

“I want to finish those long passes -- I need to be able to come down with them," he said. "And then I've been trying to hit a different gear in speed.”

There also will be some getting-to-know-you this spring. While Clay Helton was promoted from interim coach to head coach after stepping up from offensive coordinator following Steve Sarkisian's termination, Helton made significant staff changes at season's end. That said, the promotion of Tee Martin from receivers coach to offensive coordinator should provide added continuity. The Trojans are expected to become a more run-first, smashmouth team under Martin and Helton, though Smith-Schuster suggested there will be plenty of creative kinks.

“We have a lot of new stuff," he said. "It’s going to be interesting to see what we pull out of the hat this year.”

The Trojans also will be looking to boost the supporting cast around Smith-Schuster, who caught 89 passes last year. The Trojans' next three receivers, all of whom are back, combined for 92 receptions.

Still, there's no question who's the first option. Smith-Schuster is a top candidate for the Biletnikoff Award and might even receive some Heisman hype.

“I don’t pay much attention to [awards chatter], but everybody’s dream as a kid is to be one of those guys people talk about," he said. "So it gives you some motivation to be the best in the country.”

Folks already know he might have the best returning stiff-arm in the country -- "I will Picasso your face!" -- but if he keys a victory against Alabama next September, he'll deliver USC from 2015 turmoil to 2016 national relevance.