Southern California standout John "JuJu" Smith is a highlight reel waiting to happen. The lauded Long Beach athlete could compete and excel at safety or receiver in college, casting a spotlight on his rarified versatility.
The 5-star recruit propelled Long Beach Poly to 23 victories in the past two seasons, while cementing his place among America's premier prospects. You could argue that he is the most impressive player to emerge from the area since DeSean Jackson.
Smith earned Long Beach Press-Telegram Player of the Year honors as a junior, when he led the Jackrabbits to a California Southern Section division championship. He followed with a senior season that landed him in the Under Armour All-American Game.
Long Beach Press-Telegram
The 6'1", 200-pound playmaker is rated third nationally among "athletes" and is the No. 20 overall prospect in 247Sports composite rankings. Smith is listed as the second-best player in California.
Scholarship offers swiftly stacked up for the coveted multi-position standout. Ohio State, Alabama, Arizona, Ole Miss and Michigan are among the programs who clamored for a commitment from Smith.
After several visits and countless recruiting letters, he pared down his list to four top options during the final stretch toward signing day.
Per @EMcKinneyESPN, the finalists for Long Beach Poly athlete John "JuJu" Smith are Notre Dame, Oregon, UCLA and USC.— Blair Angulo (@bangulo) January 20, 2014
Smith is set to stick to the west coast unless Notre Dame can lure him to the state of Indiana. He visited South Bend in October, when he watched the Fighting Irish defeat USC.
The Trojans have swarmed Smith throughout the final stage of his recruitment process. He spent an official visit on campus in late January and is still receiving in-home visits with days to spare.
#USC had in-home visits with commits Malik Dorton and Ajene Harris as well as top target John Smith Thursday.— Gerard Martinez (@gmartlive) January 31, 2014
New USC head coach Steve Sarkisian has focused on making strides with Smith since he took over the program. A commitment from a local player of this caliber would be paramount for his first recruiting class on campus.
Where will 5-star athlete John Smith play college football?
Smith, a legitimately elite prospect as both safety and receiver, would be more likely to land on offense at Oregon. The Ducks edged out Alabama and Ohio State to stay in the race for his services.
UCLA is the underdog among west coast squads, but it's hard to underestimate Jim Mora's recruiting efforts these days, as he's assembled an impressive class again in Westwood.
Smith is scheduled to announce his decision on national signing day during an ESPNU broadcast.
Prediction: In a mild upset, Smith signs with Oregon and instantly becomes a key weapon for celebrated Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota if the team chooses to implement him at receiver. He'll take a long look at USC before heading north.