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USC Trojans Football 2016: Preseason Player Spotlight, Juju Smith-Schuster

Juju Smith-Schuster could have an amazing year for the USC Trojans in 2016.

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Any fears about a sophomore slump for wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster were quickly dispelled from the beginning of the 2015 season. After putting together a solid freshman campaign in 2014, in which he caught 54 passes for 735 yards and five touchdowns, the positive momentum shifted into the 2015 season.

Beginning the season against Arkansas State with a four-catch, 89-yard performance which included a touchdown , Smith-Schuster gave the fans an early indication that he was about to have a monster season. He would go on to tally at least 100 yards in his next three contests, including following up his opening day performance with a 192-yard, two touchdown performance against Idaho on September 12. Stanford would be his next victim as he torched the Cardinal defense with an eight-catch 153-yard showing the following week, while also adding a touchdown.

Smith-Schuster would go on to post four more contests with at least 100 receiving yards and perhaps even more valuable was his ability to run after the catch. In 13 contests, he averaged at least 10 yards per catch, and in four of those contests he averaged over 20 yards per catch with his best mark coming in a 41-31 loss to Notre Dame when he caught six passes for 139 yards, amassing 23.2 yards per reception.

He would finish the year with 89 receptions for 1,454 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Smith-Schuster looks to have an even bigger 2016 campaign and he figures to be the focal point of the Trojan offense. His importance to the team in the fall cannot be overstated. He should be able to provide a security blanket to whomever steps under center, as the new-look offense looks to make an impact immediately. He gives the offense an explosive playmaker, as he can stretch the field and make plays after the catch. At 6-foot-2, 215 pounds, he also lends himself to be a viable red-zone target.

In that respect, he could also serve as somewhat of a decoy for the rest of the Trojan offense. There is a good chance that teams will put their best defender on him, which should leave several mismatches in favor of the USC offense. Particularly when the Trojans do in fact get down into the red zone, this could work to their advantage. In some cases, I think the quarterback will have no choice, as schematically, the coverage will probably fall under either press or a double team.

This season, he should at least get 75 targets for 1,500 yards. He has shown that he can be that go-to-target, and be the focal point of the offense. Expect his name to appear on several award lists this coming December.