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Breaking Down the Opposition: USC WR JuJu Smith-Schuster

JuJu Smith-Schuster is the Trojans top returning wide receiver and was a semi-finalist for the Biletnikoff Award. The 6'2, 220lb true junior is a physical threat that Alabama's corners will have to contain.

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John "JuJu" Smith-Schuster is a beast.  He was the #20 overall recruit, the #3 athlete, and the #2 recruit in California.  Smith-Schuster joined the Trojans and contributed immediately.  As a true freshman, he started 12 games and hauled in 54 catches for 724 yards and received Freshman All-American honors.  He followed that up with 89 receptions and 1,454 yards, which landed him as a semi-finalist for the Biletnikoff Award. Marlon Humphrey, whom I covered in a previous Film Room, and the rest of the secondary will have their hands full with him.


2nd and 1: Smith-Schuster is tight on the left side of the line.  QB Cody Kessler hands to RB Tre Madden.  Smith-Schuster keys in on safety Budda Baker (#32).  He sets his feet, gets low, and hits Baker in the chest.  Smith-Schuster holds the block successfully.

1st and 10: USC has trips left, and Smith-Schuster is the #2 (second from the outside).  The #3 receiver, Adoree’ Jackson, moves back for a screen while Smith-Schuster and the other receiver go to block.  It initially looks like DB Kevin King is winning the battle, but Smith-Schuster manages to turn him to the sideline and gives Jackson some room to run.

1st and 10: Smith-Schuster is the lone receiver to the right.  He runs an intermediate crossing route and is wide open.  He catches the pass and immediately turns up field for a solid gain.

4th and 3: USC has trips left, and Smith-Schuster is again the #2 receiver.  The play starts like the previous screen to Jackson, which sucks in one of the DBs.  Smith-Schuster first flares out to the left before breaking in on a slant.  He catches the low pass from Kessler for an easy first down.

2nd and 10: I’m noticing USC likes this formation.  Trips left (Smith-Schuster is the #2 receiver), with a running back in the backfield and the tight end on the line next to the right tackle.  Smith-Schuster runs a shallow crossing route, about two yards past the line of scrimmage.  Kessler throws it a little high, and Smith-Schuster has to leave his feet.  He catches it just fine, though, and escapes the attempted tackle by Travis Feeney (a 6th round draft pick by the Steelers).  He turns upfield and gains a couple yards before getting hit by the cornerback.  Unfortunately, the impact jars the ball loose; and Washington recovers.  The Huskies score a touchdown on the ensuing play, and take the lead.

1st and 10: Smith-Schuster is wide right with the cornerback Sidney Jones in press coverage.  He releases to the outside and runs about 9 yards before aggressively coming back on the curl route.  Smith-Schuster catches it and turns inside, avoiding Jones.  He’s just able to gain the first down.  Very good play by the wide out.

Notre Dame

3rd and 8: Smith-Schuster is the lone wideout to the right.  KeiVarae Russell (3rd round pick by the Chiefs) is in press coverage on him.  He releases to the outside and runs a fly route.  He swats Russell’s arm away several times during the route and gains just enough separation to make the catch for a huge gain and first down.

Here's another angle.

1st and 10: Smith-Schuster is to the right, and he runs a shallow crossing route.  Kessler throws a high pass that he has to reach up for it, and Jaylon Smith (2nd round pick by the Cowboys) is right on top of him.  Smith-Schuster does a nice job of pulling it down with both hands and hanging on to it.

2nd and 12: Smith-Schuster is wide right.  He runs a pretty out route, but Kessler goes to the wide open Jalen Greene on the crossing route.  Greene gets around one DB on his own, but Smith-Schuster gets a crucial block on KeiVarae Russell to spring Greene for an even bigger gain.  Great awareness, and I love his willingness to block.


3rd and 7: Smith-Schuster is wide right, just inside the hashmark.  He runs a little hitch, just shy of the first down line.  Kessler looks to throw it to him but hesitates, and the window closes.  Pressure then forces Kessler to scramble to the right.  Smith-Schuster sees this and takes off downfield in the same direction.  Kessler sees him and throws on the run.  Smith-Schuster leaps and snags it while managing  to get a foot down.  Heads-up play to help his QB out.

3rd and 10: Smith-Schuster is wide right, with the corner giving him plenty of cushion.  He runs a 10 yard curl, and Kessler fires a dart to him.  Smith-Schuster reaches up and pulls it down, and he looks to begin running right away.  He gains a couple, and he lowers his shoulder and keeps his feet churning, which allows him to pick up several more yards after contact.


1st and 10: Smith-Schuster is in the slot to the right.  He fakes a move to the outside and breaks in on a post route.  Badgers safety Michael Caputo is in one-on-one coverage, so it’s an obvious match-up for Kessler to target.  He hesitates, though, pumping once before uncorking a pass.  Smith-Schuster has to jump for it, and Caputo is able to make up ground and get a hand in there to break up the pass.

2nd and 3: Smith-Schuster is wide right with the cornerback Darius Hillary in press coverage.  He runs a fly route and gets separation from Hillary down field.  Kessler sees the one-on-one coverage and goes that way, but he overthrows it.  Smith-Schuster leaps and gets his hands on it, but he isn’t able to maintain possession.  Still, impressive effort.

1st and 10: Smith-Schuster is wide right, bunched up with another receiver.  He runs a curl route just past the first down line, but Kessler goes to the wide open RB Ronald Jones in the flat.  Smith-Schuster continues coming back and gets a key block on the OLB Jesse Hayes, and Jones gains about 12 yards.

3rd and goal: Smith-Schuster is in the slot to the left.  I can’t quite tell if he was originally intending to run a hitch route or not, but I think he adjusted on the fly after his hitch route was covered by the linebacker.  Either way, he ends up crossing to the right near the goalline.  Kessler throws a nice pass where only Smith-Schuster can catch, and he does at the 1 yard line.

1st and 10: Smith-Schuster is the lone wideout on the right.  Darius Hillary is in press man coverage on him with no safety help.  Smith-Schuster releases to the outside and uses his speed to just outrun Hillary and get separation.  Kessler lofts a pass, and he easily hauls it in.

3rd and 4: Smith-Schuster is wide right, with Hillary in press coverage again.  He runs a fly route, but charges back towards the line when he sees Kessler scrambling.  Smith-Schuster hops and catches a well-thrown pass with Hillary all over him.  Nice job helping his QB out of a jam and a clutch catch on third down.

3rd and 10: USC has four receivers, and Smith-Schuster is wide right.  Hillary is in press man again, and it’s one-on-one.  Kessler recognizes it and turns to the Trojans leading receiver as they desperately need to get into field goal range.  Smith-Schuster had released to the outside and has a step on Hillary.  The pass is a little far, and Smith-Schuster has to dive for it.  It hits his outstretched hands and falls incomplete.  It wasn’t a perfect pass, but he should’ve caught it.