Breaking Down Adoree and Juju

Gardena (Calif.) Serra athlete Adoree Jackson and Long Beach Poly (Calif.) athlete John ‘JuJu' Smith made their spring debuts over the weekend at the IMG West Regional Championship and both showed why they're regarded as the top two prospects in the region.

They say in baseball, the ball just sounds differently coming off the bat of the truly great hitters. When you watch Adoree Jackson and Juju Smith, even among other elite players, their overall athleticism just jumps out at you. The two are just on a different level in terms of how they move around, their explosiveness and the plays they can make. They just look and play diffently than everyone else.

Watching the two play several times over the weekend, you could see a little bit of rust to their game. Both players have been focusing on track this spring but decided to come out and play for Team AIGA and get some work in. Jackson played receiver and corner and made a much bigger impact on the offensive side of the ball. He's only about 5-10 but is such an explosive leaper and athlete in general, that he was able to make some of the most acrobatic catches we've seen all spring.

His overall body control, timing and hand-eye coordination were on full display and there was some sentiment from a few coaches watching that offense might be his meal ticket at the next level. Jackson is just electric with the ball in his hands and could be an immediate impact player on the offensive side of the ball as well as returning punts and kicks.

At corner, Jackson is best suited to play press coverage and track an opposing teams best receiver all over the field. In the defense he played in, Jackson played mostly off in a cover 2 or quarter, where he had an area not an individual player. The times he did man up on a receiver, he was very impressive and when he broke on a ball, his quickness and burst were on a different level than anyone else.

Smith played safety and receiver and in terms of physical upside, has very few peers anywhere in the country. Smith wasn't as instinctual as we've seen him in the past as there were a few times it looked like he could have broken a ball for an interception or breakup, but he held back a little and let the completion happen in front of him. Again, we'll credit that to track and the fact that he hasn't played much football since the fall. We've seen enough of Smith in the pads to know tracking the football and making a play on it is one of his strengths. He did pick off a few passes where he was clearly baiting the quarterback and then showed his burst making a play.

Smith has a college body and frame, toughness and high level athleticism. There were several times where you could see Smith holding himself back from unloading on a receiver crossing the middle and his physicality was still apparent on a number of occasions.

He has great size, is smooth in his backpedal and covers a ton of ground in the secondary. He has elite closing speed, plays hard all the time and is a great teammate. He wasn't targeted much at receiver, despite running wide open down the field multiple times. Smith said he prefers receiver but isn't a pure pass catcher just yet and we still feel his upside is highest on the defensive side of the ball.

"Both guys are the real deal," AIGA coach Troy Lau said following the tournament. "JuJu really jumped out at me. Everyone will talk about his size and speed but I was really impressed by his football IQ and how smart he is on the field. This was one of the first times he had played with us but he knew what he was doing, knew the defense and just knows how to play the game.

"Adoree is a freak athlete as well and so explosive. He made some incredible catches out there and is a great player on both sides of the ball. They're both great kids too, not just great players and it was fun having them both on the same team for us."

It was also refreshing to see the two players just play the game and not get involved in some of the obnoxious trash talk you typically see in 7 on 7 play, usually done by the guys not making any plays. You won't find two elite national top 10 players more humble than Smith and Jackson, who just go out and play the game the right way and carry themselves how you're supposed to.

Greg Biggins has been covering recruiting for over 15 years, covering the West since the mid-1990's and currently serves as a national analyst for
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