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Tuesday, May 7, 2013
ESPN 150 ATH Smith talks USC

By Blair Angulo

JuJu Smith
After spending most of the spring focused on track and field, ESPN 150 athlete John "JuJu" Smith is turning his attention back to the gridiron.
FULLERTON, Calif. -- Since ESPN 150 athlete John Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Poly) had been all but consumed by track and field this spring, the highly coveted prospect was a must-see attraction this past weekend in the IMG 7v7 West Regional at Fullerton College.

Known simply as “JuJu” by players, coaches and spectators, Smith drew the attention of countless cameras once he stepped onto the field for Team AIGA. And with Long Beach Poly set to kick off spring practice this week, the versatile 6-foot-1, 185-pound athlete is preparing himself for many more eyes, as coaches from across the land are expected to stop by to see him in person.

Three schools in particular have been fighting for his attention.

“The hardest coming at me right now are UCLA, Michigan and Ohio State,” Smith said. “USC is not coming on as hard as I would like them to. I’d like them to come harder. The best coach will care for his best players, so honestly, if they come on harder, I’d have more interest in them.”

Smith, who received a scholarship offer from the childhood favorite Trojans in late January, intends to keep an open mind throughout his recruitment, especially now that he’s on the radar of many national programs. Yet USC, which is recruiting Smith at receiver, figures to be in the race until the end.

“My personal recruiter is Tee Martin,” Smith said. “He’s a great coach and he knows where recruits are coming from. I love that. I’ve also talked to the other coaches on the staff and I like the new coaching staff they have this year. Plus, they have some top players coming in.

“If you live in Southern California, growing up as a kid, USC is your dream school,” Smith added. “USC is my dream school. But, honestly, wherever I go, my family will be supporting me. I’m still open to all the options I have.”

No. 1-rated tight end adds another favorite

It’s been well documented by now that ESPN 150 tight end Tyler Luatua (La Mirada, Calif./La Mirada) holds Alabama and USC in high regard. The No. 1-rated player at his position even went as far as to designate the two schools as the leaders in his recruitment last summer.

Now, heading into his senior year, the 6-foot-3, 243-pound Luatua appears to have added a third leader.

“I put Notre Dame in there now, for sure,” Luatua said. “I really like what they’ve told me. They came to visit this past week. Coach Mike Denbrock and coach Scott Booker like how I play. They said I could probably start right away if I went there. They talked about the education and the alumni base. I definitely want to take an official visit there.”

It’s no surprise, given that Luatua said the Fighting Irish are recruiting him the hardest. Notre Dame has also been the benefactor of some other variables. Luatua wasn’t able to visit Alabama, where his brother is an offensive lineman, for its spring game. USC, meanwhile, fired Kennedy Polamalu, his former lead recruiter, after the season.

“It’s a little different with USC, but I just have to get used to the other coaches,” Luatua said.

As for official visits, Luatua has his sights set on Alabama, Michigan, Notre Dame and Ohio State.

“I’m going to keep to that plan for now and then make a decision after I take a few visits,” Luatua said.

Arizona receiver plans to take it slow

Four-star receiver Jalen Brown (Phoenix, Ariz./Mountain Pointe) unofficially visited the Los Angeles schools in early March, so there was no need to swing by the campuses while he was in town for the IMG tournament this past weekend.

The recent trips had already left an imprint on his mind.

“The USC visit was good. I got to gather a lot of information, check out the campus and talk to the coaches,” Brown said. “We went through what a typical schedule looks like during a spring practice day. They have great tradition. They send a lot of receivers to the NFL and have produced some great ones in the past. When I watched practice, I noticed a lot of team chemistry. They have a lot of young potential there.”

The 6-foot-2, 185-pound wideout also drew a visit from assistant coach Tommie Robinson recently.

“Coach Robinson stopped by my school to check me out after one of my classes,” he said. “I have a pretty good relationship with him. … I probably want to take another visit and get some more information, get to know more about what the program is like. I’m not leaning toward any school right now since I want to keep all my options open. I just have to get a good idea of every school. I won’t be too concerned with staying too close to home. If the best fit is somewhere else, I’m probably going to go there.

Brown hopes to have enough free time this summer to visit schools such as Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern and Ohio State. He also wants to make trips to Tennessee and Vanderbilt.

“My decision date depends on whether I graduate early,” Brown said. “I’m thinking about graduating early, but I haven’t decided on that yet. I’m looking to break down my offers toward the end of the summer and probably make as many official visits as I can before I make my decision. It’s going to take as long as it has to.”