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Wednesday, February 5, 2014
Juju Smith brings versatility to USC

By Blair Angulo and Tom Luginbill

Long Beach (Calif.) Poly's John "Juju" Smith, who is rated as the No. 3 athlete in the 2014 class and the No. 24 player in the ESPN 300, committed to USC over Oregon, Notre Dame and UCLA on Wednesday.

What he brings: One of the best overall athletes in this class, Smith will likely end up at safety, but he is every bit the playmaker on offense as a wide receiver. Any skilled prospect who possesses natural ball skills and a feel for the game is regarded as a high-value prospect, and Smith fits the bill. He has gained significant weight from his junior to senior year, which has enhanced his physical stature and style of play. On defense, that really upgrades his ability in run support. His coverage range allows him to excel as a high-point safety, a split safety and a player who can match up in the slot in man coverage against wide receivers, tight ends and running backs. During Under Armour Game week, he also showed the ability to play linebacker. Smith is a scheme-versatile prospect who can make plays no matter the position.

John "Juju" Smith picked USC over UCLA, Oregon and Notre Dame.
Who he reminds us of: USC WR Marqise Lee or USC S Su'a Cravens. Smith could be a viable commodity on both sides of the ball. From a true safety standpoint, we like the Cravens comparison. These two possess so many similar traits, most notably their playmaking skills regardless of the position they play. Cravens settled in on defense after playing just about every skill position possible on offense and defense in high school, and Smith has the same background. Smith might have slightly better explosive speed. Like Cravens, who did not have a steep learning curve at the college level, we would expect that Smith is in the same position to contribute immediately.

Potential freshman impact: Scheme versatility really helps his value in terms of early playing time. He is not a redshirt candidate and will likely see playing time on special teams and find time in the rotation as a safety or even in nickel linebacker situations. Smith has great instincts and a high football IQ, which we believe will lend to an easy transition to the next level, regardless of position.

How he fits: The commitment of the four-star prospect capped a monstrous day for the Trojans, who also landed ESPN 300 offensive guard Damien Mama and five-star cornerback Adoree' Jackson on signing day. Smith has plans to play receiver at USC, knowing the Trojans have a young core at safety, but he could make an impact on either side of the ball this fall. This is turning out to be a big day for USC coming out of NCAA sanctions. Smith is a nice addition to the Trojans program as they work to rebuild their depth.