2014 Prospect Profile: John "JuJu" Smith

USA TODAY Sports

Michigan has less than a handful of spots left in the class of 2014. One of those slots will almost certainly be filled by a safety, and California native John "JuJu" Smith is capable of filling that vacancy. Can Michigan lure him to the Midwest?

Film and Ratings

Long Beach Poly High School ,CA
6'1", 205 pounds

247: Five-star, #4 ATH, #30 overall
Rivals: Four-star, #6 S, #49 overall
Scout: Five-star, #1 S, #8 overall

Take a quick glance at Smith's ratings and you'll see why Michigan, Notre Dame, USC and a countless other schools are trying to get his attention. He has the ability to play both receiver and safety at the next level, although safety seems to be the more likely position of the two.

Breakdown

Frame: A
Smith is one of the taller and longer safety prospects in his class. He definitely has an above average wingspan for his height yet isn't skinny by any means; he could easily push 215 pounds without losing a step. Overall, he's rangy with room to add muscle.

Strength: B
Juju isn't an overpowering safety just yet, but I think he could be when he gets to his peak playing weight and goes through a year of college strength training. He's still strong enough to overpower the vast majority of defensive backs when he's at receiver and has enough strength on defense to make the occasional crushing blow. His length can be a hindrance on his overall strength, but that's a tradeoff almost any defensive back would take.

Explosiveness/Acceleration: A-
Speed: B+
Agility: B+
Smith's combination of explosiveness and length are what make him special. He has good to great straight-line speed and gets in and out of his breaks quickly for someone over six feet tall. Quarterbacks will be weary of Smith at the next level because of his ability to turn, run, explode upward and find the ball.

On-Field Awareness: A-
The film shown speaks for Smith's awareness. He does a great job of reading the quarterback's eyes and also sees running plays developing before they get to him. He doesn't overplay receivers and often strafes on plays to keep his eyes up, which is a mark of a natural safety. He's a threat to bring interceptions back every time he makes a play on the ball, which is often.

Ball Skills: A-
Smith looks the ball in well and can contort his body to catch balls at awkward angles. He sees the ball well and can go up and get the ball at its highest point. He still lets too many throws get into his chest, which could be problematic at the next level should he end up at receiver.

Technique: A-
I love what I see from Smith in the passing game, reading the eyes of the passer while remaining disciplined in his coverage, which is usually the deep zone. Some safeties turn and run straight up and down, exposing themselves to a receiver who can change directions, but that doesn't happen with Smith. He also breaks down well when he moves into the box to make a tackle, which is something that many young defensive backs struggle with.

Ceiling: A
Smith can add a few pounds of muscle and refine his technique a bit more, and he should be the kind of player who plays for three to four years before hearing his name called in the NFL draft. I like him much better at safety than at receiver, mostly because he looks like a natural ball hawk on film and could end up being a vicious hitter if he gets just a bit stronger.

Recruitment

Smith's recruitment hasn't been an easy one to read. He holds offers from everyone – Alabama, Arizona, California, Michigan, Notre Dame, UCLA and USC are just a few of the names – making it difficult to tell who is the leader. He looked like more of a lean to stay in the West early on in his recruitment, but Michigan, Notre Dame and Ohio State are all trying to keep that from happening. He camped at USC and is set to officially visit Alabama, Michigan, Notre Dame and Ohio State; I'm guessing he's using the paid official visits to see the schools furthest away, so don't put too much stock into him not seeing UCLA or USC. His current top group consists of Alabama, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Ole Miss, UCLA and USC.

Prognostication

Smith could end up going to any of the schools in his top list. I don't see either of the SEC schools plucking him away from a group of high-powered academic institutions like Michigan, Notre Dame and USC – it looks like he has a bunch of elite academic schools in his top group for a reason – and I don't see him choosing the Bruins over the Trojans. I really do feel like Michigan has a legitimate chance right now, probably sitting second behind in-state USC, but I don't think they'll pull Smith in at the end of the day. The sad reality is that it's tough to pull California kids out of the warm weather and into the Midwest and the abysmal state known as Michigan, which is why I'll most likely change my crystal ball prediction from Notre Dame to USC in the end

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