USC's 18-year old leader

True freshman wide receiver Juju Smith is showing his leadership skills this offseason.

Even as a true freshman, Juju Smith isn’t taking a backseat to anyone. After a season where he caught 54 passes for 724 yards and 5 touchdowns, Smith is taking it upon himself to organize offseason workouts. The true freshman and a group of teammates that included Cody Kessler, Max Browne and Ricky Town have been hitting the practice field to get a little throwing in.

“It was awesome,” Smith said. “Just coming out here with the boys, bringing out the boys out here early, I scheduled this myself for the quarterbacks and receivers to come out here and get that work in.”

Smith just turned 18 in November, which means he played a majority of his freshman season as a 17-year old. Youth is no stranger to this USC team though as a new set of early enrollee freshmen started class this past week. Amongst those freshmen was quarterback Ricky Town who took part in his first team activities this week.

“He’s been great,” Smith said about the freshman quarterback. “As a young freshman and also a senior too kind of, he’s doing great. He’s studying the plays a lot. Signals, concepts, just watching film constantly. I think he’s going to be great.”

With the departure of Nelson Agholor, it looked as if Smith would be battling with George Farmer for the top spot on the depth chart at the wide receiver position. However, everything changed when Farmer announced his intentions to enter the NFL Draft last week.

“I wasn’t happy with his decision on leaving, but I know what he did was best for him and his family,” Smith said. “I’m proud of what he did and support him 100 percent.”

The Trojans now have to move on after the loss of Farmer and they’ll get a little help doing so when two junior college wide receivers join the roster for the 2015 season. Isaac Whitney is already on campus and enrolled in class while De’Quan Hampton will arrive at USC this summer.

“It was very unexpected when George left,” Smith said. “I thought about who I had and who had to step up. We have two JC receivers coming in next year and I feel like they’re going to be ready. Isaac and De’Quan. De’Quan comes in summer and Isaac’s here now and very into practice. You also have Darreus (Rogers), Aaron (Minor), all of the other walk-ons, Ajene (Harris) and I think we’ll be fine.”

There’s always talk surrounding JuJu Smith about how he would be a great two way player, kind of like Adoree Jackson. Smith hasn’t played any snaps on defense yet, and that could change down the road, but for now he’s focused on offense.

“I don’t know,” Smith said when asked if he wanted to play both ways. “We’ll see. I’m willing to work for it, but my main priority is offense right now. I feel like I’m the number one receiver and I feel like I got to keep it that way. These boys that are coming in have to compete and my spot is up for grabs too. Although I’m a vet, I feel like I have to work as hard to keep my spot.”

Everyone can always be working on something and although it may be hard to see a weakness in Smith’s game, he still thinks there is plenty to work on.

“As of right now, I’m working on running my routes under control,” Smith said. “Not having to force anything and then also with catching the ball, getting my chemistry with Cody on point and also Ricky. I’m trying to get most guys out here and get our chemistry right. Come spring, we’ll be ready.”


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