Monday, May 6, 2013
ESPN 150 ATH 'Juju' Smith off and running
By Erik McKinney
John Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Poly) proved during his junior football season that he would be one of the region's top recruits for the 2014 class. But the 6-foot-1, 185-pound athlete is proving this spring that he is one of the top targets nationally, as well.
Smith, the nation's No. 62 player, finished last season with 47 receptions for 689 yards and 31 tackles on defense, but it's much smaller numbers he's posting this spring that could help even more at the next level.
After running track as a freshman, Smith -- referred to by just about everybody as "Juju" -- skipped the sport his sophomore year but returned to the track as a junior.
"I started the season running the 400, which is a man's race," Smith said. "Then during the season I ran the 100 and 200. It was awesome to be part of the track team at Long Beach Poly. They don't call it The Home of Scholars and Champions for no reason."
The results have been notable for Smith, who said he entered the spring running 11.1 or 11.2 seconds in the 100 and finished the season at a 10.8 clip.
"It made a huge difference," Smith said, adding that he's excited to put his new gear to use on the football field this fall. "It really increased my speed for the next season."
As Smith shifts to spring ball from track, he'll likely take a few days off this week before focusing on football next week. But recruiting isn't likely to slow down from this point until signing day.
"Recruiting is good," Smith said. "Some kids hate it and some love it. I love it. I'm pretty sure it will get annoying on August 1, when coaches can start calling a lot, which I'm fine with. But at the same time, I have to live my life. I'm handling it by making sure I talk to coaches about academics, which is my main priority. We'll see how it goes from here."
Several weeks ago, Smith named Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State, UCLA and USC as the schools standing atop his list, but he said Sunday that list is by no means official. He said he wouldn't rule out programs moving in and out of his top group, and he hasn't come close to putting those schools in any kind of order. What he does know is that he will take all five of his official visits.
Two of those are scheduled already, as Smith said he'll visit Michigan for the Wolverines' night game against Notre Dame on Sept 7 and will travel to Notre Dame when the Fighting Irish host USC on Oct. 19.
"I also want to see more SEC schools and get out there more to some of those big schools," Smith said, adding that he doesn't plan to take an official visit to UCLA or USC. "They're in my back yard, so I can just drive there any time."
Smith also knows that a decision won't come anytime soon. In fact, he plans to let the entire college season play out before really focusing on any schools.
"I want to see how coaches react to preparing for their bowl games and how the players react to the coaches after the season," Smith said.