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Fall Camp Chronicles: JuJu Smith Wants To Help USC's Offense

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Coach Sark has to be excited over his luxury of young offensive talent.

John 'Juju' Smith could have an immediate impact.
John 'Juju' Smith could have an immediate impact.
Shotgun Spratling/Conquest Chronicles

As one of the many talked about two-way players searching to find their niche during training camp, the 6-foot-2 athlete John "JuJu" Smith from Long Beach Poly High School has his eyes set on catching touchdown passes.

During the initial five-day period of training camp where USC head coach Steve Sarkisian and his staff spent time giving freshmen John Plattenburg, Adoree' Jackson time on both sides of the ball, Smith never actually left the offensive huddle.

"The freshman class, we are all close together," five-star JuJu Smith said about the bevy of talented players also taking Howard Jones Field for the collective first time. "Our chemistry with each other is awesome."

That observation was all put together by design we found out following Wednesday night's fall camp practice.

"Well I came in (to USC) not knowing whether I was going to play offense or defense," JuJu Smith noted. "But then when coach asked what side I wanted to play on, I chose offense."

Running alongside Nelson Agholor, George Farmer and Darreus Rogers on the first-team offense, Smith has exhibited his blend of athleticism and physicality right from the very start. When asked why he leaned towards playing offense, after succeeding as both a stud five-star safety and wideout in high school, Smith was rather sincere.

"I wanted to help out, especially guys like Nelson (Agholor), and George (Farmer) and Darreus (Rogers). Doing anything I can to contribute to the team," the team-oriented, wide-eyed freshman said in his first USC media interview.

From what we've seen to this point in training camp, Smith has looked very similar to one Marqise Lee using his body all over the field combined with great leaping ability and great speed. Talents that could easily move him to the defensive side of the ball, but Smith wants to focus on catching passes for the time being.

"I always a passion to play wide receiver," Smith quickly responded when asked about deciding to start on offense. "I love playing both sides of the ball, but at the end, if I had to choose, I would love to play offense."

That passion has kept JuJu Smith right next to a trio of his favorite wide receivers, each of whom have taught him a thing or two about excelling at the position.

From Darreus Rogers: "Using my body, as a big receiver like me."

From George Farmer: "Using my speed (out there)."

From Nelson Agholor: "Using my smartness."

Combine all those talents with an unmistakable wow-factor, and the Trojans' newest target feels that all his success would not happen without: "But mostly I've learned field awareness, especially where the defense is out there."

What we've seen the last few weeks from Smith has been quite remarkable, especially given the tempo and complexity of this high-tempo offense. Emerging as a legitimate physical specimen on the outside, JuJu Smith continues to fine tune his game around what the Trojans have in mind.

"No it's not difficult. The only thing I have a challenge with, at first, was the tempo," Smith said, talking about adjusting to head coach Steve Sarkisian's offense. At first, it was pretty fast, but then, once you start getting used to it, it's good."

While playing both on offense and defense has not yet been ruled out of the equation, the early success at wide receiver has definitely given some credence to the freshman -- and his coaching staff's -- assertion of keeping Smith squarely focused on offense.

JuJu Smith did qualify that future moves from offense to defense would be left in the hands of the coaching staff, but the athletic playmaker really just wants to keep doing what he does best; making a noticeable impact on the field for the USC Trojans.

"People say I'm a good size to play safety. But at the end of the day, I'm using my size as a wide receiver to contribute on the offensive side of the ball."