Smith Discusses L.A. Coaching

Long Beach (Calif.) Poly athlete JuJu Smith was in Corona (Calif.) on Friday night to cheer on his good friends in the CIF-SS Inland Division game. He also discusses his thoughts on the LA coaching changes with Scout...

Have you been hearing there's a group of Southern California recruits who are all very "comfortable" with the USC hiring of Steve Sarkisian?

Of course you have.

That's exactly how a group of four and five-star recruits have planned it.

It's all on a group-text message.

Between who?

Juju Smith, Damien Mama, Toa Lobendahn, Viane Talamaivao, Kammy Delp and Austin Maloata.

The standout recruits knew their phones were going to be buzzing with reporters when the Trojan news was announced. They thought it would be fun to all respond the same way. "I'm very comfortable with the hiring of Steve Sarkisian," they've all said.

Smith, a five-star recruit out of Long Beach (Calif.) Poly, laughed about it on Friday night. The nation's top-rated safety was at Corona (Calif.) Centennial high school with Mama and Delp to watch good friends Talamaivao and Maloata play in the CIF-SS Inland Division Championship game.

"I'm here to support Viane and Austin, great guys and I'm cousins with Viane, but at the same time we're close with Austin, very close with Austin," Smith explained. "We came out to support them, me and the boys, and I'm happy to be out here."

Smith says since the group was young, they've dreamt about their football careers following the same path.

"We had this dream that ‘What if we all went to college together'," he explained. "That was great, and so far right now, in our group chat we talk about it – going to the same college, USC or UCLA – but so far ‘SC has two of our top guys, Viane and Toa, so it's kind of hard right now."

The other logistic holding the group back? Delp is still waiting on a USC offer.

Individually, Smith has narrowed his own host of offers down to six schools, including: Alabama, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oregon, UCLA, and USC.

He plans to take an unofficial visit to UCLA next week. Smith says he was happy to hear about the contract extension of Bruin head coach Jim Mora, though disappointed about one of Mora's staff decisions. "I think it was a good decision for Jim Mora to stick around," Smith explained. "At the same time, I like [running backs] Coach [Steve] Broussard, he should've never left. But Jim Mora had to do what he had to do, but he got [running backs coach Kennedy] Polamalu which is a great guy I know."

Smith says he's been in touch with Polamalu since his freshman season.

As for the changes across town, at USC? Obviously Smith – like his friends – says he's "comfortable" with the new coaching hires.

"I think they're great," Smith said. "I was very happy that they kept [receivers coach] Tee Martin, they let go of everyone else and actually brought the Washington staff over, they brought the DB coach [Keith Heyward] over so that will be great."

Another key hire on Sarkisian's new staff at USC is running backs coach Johnny Nansen, who is related to Smith and Talamaivao.

"He's actually my uncle too, on my dad's side," Smith explained. "So I know him pretty well. It's kind of strong because in our culture family is really, really strong to us and I think now he's down here, it's even harder for me to make my decision."

Smith will take an official visit to USC on Jan. 17.

Beyond coaching relationships, Smith says he will also factor in which programs will allow him to play on both sides of the football – something he's more than interested in doing at the next level. According to Smith, Alabama, Oregon, UCLA, and USC are willing to let him play on both sides. Ohio State wants to keep him on defense.

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