What's new with Juju

John "Juju" Smith was at Diamond Ranch High School Sunday supporting the Polynesian to Polynesian Kumite Camp fresh off the Trojans first summer work out last Thursday.

Sophomore wide receiver Juju Smith spend the day at the PTP Kumite Camp in Pomona (Calif.) as an alum of event celebrating Polynesian football tradition.

Smith, half Samoan himself, took a break from the onslaught of summer work outs at USC. Just two years removed from such camps, Smith he has become a beacon of leadership for the Trojans football team — literally.

Sporting a red rugby style soft shell helmet during the workouts, Smith stands out in the crowd.

“I found that hat laying around in one of the coach’s offices,” laughed Smith. “I just like it — the way it looks.

"You never see these with a Trojan on it. I guess it does sort of stick out.

“Now with Nelson (Agholor) and George (Farmer) gone, I feel like, well… don’t feel like so much as it’s upon me. You know? I’m the next guy up. I’ve got the most receiving yards of all of us coming back, so it’s time to lead, and I’m okay with that.

“Me, Darreus (Rogers)… we’re all great leaders. I make them accountable and they make me accountable. Starting young is great because once I’m a junior, hopefully I’m a team captain.”

It’s a role that not many would have necessarily predicted for Smith out of Long Beach Poly High School. Smith was always a go-to player in crunch time for Poly, but he led by example more than with his voice.

At USC, Smith is still leading by example, but he has become more vocal in his approach by setting the tone of player run practices with enthusiasm and focus.

“For me, this off season has been about the fundamentals,” said Smith, who wants to trim down to 205-pounds by the start of the season from his current weight of 215. “Coming from spring ball, I’m working hard on the little things to make them more routine.

“Lining up properly and getting off the snap with good technique. I’m getting my routes down, getting out of my breaks fast, but also being patient. It’s really doing the little stuff right over and over.”

And then explaining to the younger players around him why the details matter.

Thursday, 10 newcomers took the field for summer works outs at Cromwell Field. It was Smith’s first time speaking with many of the freshmen just arriving on campus June 1.

“You’ve got five-star guys coming in from the small pond as big fish,” said Smith. “Now they’re in the big pond and they’re little fish.

“What we’re doing with the young guys now is getting them use to PRP’s and how we do things. Get the signals and go out there and play. They have to learn to play fast. Not just fast, but faster.

“They have to get use to our tempo, but then just the game speed that changes at the college level. The physicality is different too, and that will let them know they have to keep working.”

Smith played with one of the Trojans most highly touted in-coming freshmen, Iman Marshall. And while Marshall waits to enroll in summer school at USC, Smith had some other newcomers he was anxious to see more of.

“Yeah man, those linebackers,” said Smith. “Of course Biggie is going to come in and do his thing, but those linebackers. We got some good linebackers and that’s going to be nice.

“We also have Deontay (Burnett) out there as a young dude, and I think he’s going to be good as a receiver. He’s playing in the slot for us and he got a lot of reps (Thursday), which it’s good too get him in the mix.

“We also have Quan (De’Quan Hampton) and Isaac Whitney. I think Isaac has gotten a lot better since spring. He knows his plays better, so he was balling out the other day. There’s a lot of competition at the receiver spot.

“You’ve got Darreus and Quan, then me and Isaac. If Isaac gets better, that means I’ve got to get better. He’s going to push me because he doesn’t have a lot of time left (as a junior college transfer).”

Smith is still getting use to only working at a single position. Looking on at the high school players taking part in the camp Sunday, he joked about being projected as a safety coming out of Poly.

“Man, it is a little crazy to think about,” said Smith. “I mean, some times I would just work on back peddling because I was so use to doing it in practice when I was in high school.

“Now, it’s a lot better for me focusing on receiver. Guys in the NFL, they’re not going both ways unless you count special teams. I want to perfect one thing and that’s my receiving skills.”

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