The Nation’s Most Underrated Wide Receiver: USC’s JuJu Smith

Dec 27, 2014; San Diego, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans receiver JuJu Smith (9) celebrates after a 45-yard reception in the third quarter as Nebraska Cornhuskers cornerback Daniel Davie (23) reacts in the 2014 Holiday Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium. USC won 45-42. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
JuJu Smith may have been overlooked despite an amazing performance in 2014, but with the help of Cody Kessler it will be hard to ignore him this season.

JuJu Smith may have been overlooked despite an amazing performance in 2014, but with the help of Cody Kessler it will be hard to ignore him this season.

Dec 27, 2014; San Diego, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans receiver JuJu Smith (9) celebrates after a 45-yard reception in the third quarter as Nebraska Cornhuskers cornerback Daniel Davie (23) reacts in the 2014 Holiday Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium. USC won 45-42. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Dec 27, 2014; San Diego, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans receiver JuJu Smith (9) celebrates after a 45-yard reception in the third quarter as Nebraska Cornhuskers cornerback Daniel Davie (23) reacts in the 2014 Holiday Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium. USC won 45-42. (Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

(C+P) — After a season where he was overshadowed by NFL first-round draft pick Nelson Agholor, USC’s JuJu Smith appears poised for a breakout sophomore season with the Trojans. Smith started his career with a USC freshman record 123 yards receiving on four receptions in last year’s season opener against Fresno State. He went on to catch 54 passes for 724 yards and five touchdowns as the Trojans No. 2 receiver.

Smith should thrive this season as he moves into quarterback Cody Kessler’s go-to receiver slot. At 6-2, 215 pounds, Smith is big yet explosive and will take some pressure off the Trojans running game. The former Tailback U. will be looking for the guy to replace Javorius Allen, now a member of the Baltimore Ravens. That guy could be Justin Davis, USC’s leading returning rusher, but he has been inconsistent in his career thus far.

While head coach Steve Sarkisian and offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin sort out the running game, they will trust in Smith and possibly the nation’s best returning quarterback, Kessler, to set the tone for the Trojans offense. After his impressive freshman season, Smith was named second-team All-Pac 12 and made both the Sporting News and CollegeFootballNews.com Freshman All-American teams.

Oct 25, 2014; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; USC Trojans wide receiver JuJu Smith (9) reacts to scoring a touchdown during the first half against the Utah Utes at Rice-Eccles Stadium. (Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports)
Oct 25, 2014; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; USC Trojans wide receiver JuJu Smith (9) reacts to scoring a touchdown during the first half against the Utah Utes at Rice-Eccles Stadium. (Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports)

For all of his accolades last season, Smith has still not made the Biletnikoff Award watch list. The award is given annually to the nation’s best receiver, but Smith is not on it. Victor Bolden, who will enter his sophomore season at fellow Pac-12 school Oregon State, made the list. Bolden caught 72 passes for 798 yards and just two touchdowns. Jalen Robinette, like Smith, will be a sophomore at Air Force. The Falcons are not known for their passing prowess, yet Robinette is on the Biletnikoff watch list after a freshman season of 43 receptions, 806 yards and four touchdowns.

Smith should be just fine running under the radar. Former USC star and Biletnikoff Award winner Marqise Lee went through the same treatment. Lee caught 73 passes for over 1,000 yards as a freshman in 2011 but was left off the initial Biletnikoff watch list in 2012. He went on to win the award in his sophomore season. The nation’s most underrated wide receiver in 2015 may do just the same.

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