Oregon football recruiting: John “Juju” Smith

Juju Smith is fluid and gifted, a five-star recruit, an Under Armour All-American who’s choosing between Michigan, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Ole Miss and Alabama,

Only a week ago he cut out that Ole Miss trip to take an October 25th official visit to Oregon. The Ducks playjuju-smith-2014-long-beach-poly-johnsmith-lbpoly-jackrabbits-football-cla-sports-recruit UCLA that weekend, twelve days before they travel to Stanford in the two pivotal showdowns in West Coast college football.

The 6-1, 207-pound wide receiver and safety from Long Beach Polytechnic High School will be watching intently. Smith is a winner. For a long time he described USC as his dream school, growing up in Southern California, playing in Snoop Lion’s Pop Warner league, but he was one of the elite recruits that witnessed the debacle versus Washington State two weeks ago, when the Trojans lost 10-7 at home, gaining only 54 yards through the air as the disgusted crowd chanted “Fire Kiffin!”

Got Juju?: Chiseled, intense, confident and graceful, Juju Smith is one the pivotal prizes of the 2014 recruiting race (Mike Williams, College Level Athletics photo).

Juju, who got the name everybody who knows him uses from a favorite aunt, described the sordid scene to Jill Painter of the Long Beach Telegram, 

“Lane Kiffin, I don’t know,” Smith said. “Lane Kiffin is a great coach but his moves right now are (not) very high to a lot of recruits like me. It’s not going well.

“The SC crowd was saying, ‘Fire Kiffin.’ That is crazy. Later I found out USC had a team meeting without Lane Kiffin. That’s really crucial. Just to have that without him is really hard.”

So Juju’s having second thoughts about Troy as his choice to develop his talents. 

Smith is serious about his future and making his decision carefully. He wants to be chiropractor or a physical therapist. He carries a 3.2 G.P.A.  He’s looking for a school where his family feels comfortable, where he’ll have the best chance to succeed on and off the field.

As a junior the inspirational leader of the Long Beach Poly  Jackrabbits had 51 tackles and 6 interceptions. On offense he caught 49 passes for 752 yards and 9 tds. He wants to play wide receiver in college, but a lot of schools looking at his size and ability to roam the field on defense, covet him as a safety. Call him an athlete, one of those gifted guys who could play five different positions on the field and go five for five if a softball game broke out.

Fox Sports recruiting analyst Greg Biggins rates Smith higher than everyone except Serra standout Adoree’ Jackson, higher than East Bay product Joe Mixon. He told Eric Sondheimer of the L.A. Times, 

“We have him number two and Adoree number one in the West. I actually think JuJu is a guy that has the more upside just because physically, you look at his body and how he is still filling out, he’s how you would draw it up. I love him as a safety. He prefers receiver, but I just think he’s not really a natural pass catcher right now like Drake is.

“He can do some things — he’s big and physical, he’s fast, he’s tough, he can run after the catch, and he can run past guys. He’ll catch most (passes), but he’ll fight the ball a little bit too. As a safety though, that’s where I love him because he’s physical. He’ll come up and just hit you and then he has the range to drop back, run 20 yards, and catch up with a guy, and make a pick. He plays all over the field and I think he really is, at the high school level, a man among boys. He doesn’t have the instincts that Adoree has, but he can make up for it just because of how big and fast athletic he is.”

Smith’s high school Raul Lara coach praises his coachability and leadership. He told reporter Painter, 

“He’s a great kid,” Lara said. “He’s not a Phoney-baloney. He was always quiet. With all the attention, his personality has really opened up. He gets everyone going.”

Jackrabbits track coach Don Norford echoes that evaluation. “He’s easy to coach,” he said. “He’s driven. He’s goal-oriented. We teach to be humble. Let other people talk.”

Both coaches describe him as an unselfish, team oriented guy with superb ability, a hard worker. 

In his highlight tape, Smith will remind fans of Cliff Harris. Picture Cliff Harris 30 pounds bigger and 3 inches taller, with the work ethic and solid family structure of Kenjon Barner.

Yeah, he’s that good.

Junior highlights:


Recruiting interview: