Receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, who suffered a fracture in his right hand Saturday during USC’s victory over California, could have surgery this week, putting his availability this for Saturday’s game against Arizona in doubt.
Interim Coach Clay Helton said Sunday night that a decision regarding surgery would be discussed Monday, and he could not say definitively when Smith-Schuster would return.
“They have told me if we proceed with this surgery, the quickest they have seen is three days, but everybody heals differently,” Helton said during a teleconference with reporters. “So for me to say he could play in this game right now would be absurd.”
Smith-Schuster was injured in the first quarter while returning a kickoff in the Trojans’ 27-21 victory at Berkeley. He caught five passes for 55 yards.
After the victory, which improved the Trojans’ record to 5-3 overall and 3-2 in the Pac-12 Conference, Smith-Schuster said that he planned to play against Arizona.
Smith-Schuster suffered an injury to his left hand last season and said he utilized a soft cast.
“I’m going to it again,” he said. “So pretty easy.”
But a day later Helton said possible surgery would require inserting a screw into the affected bone.
“We’re just worried about him being healthy,” Helton said. “The guy’s going to have an unbelievable career and when he’s ready to come back and it’s where he can play and he can deal with pain, I know he’ll come back.
“He’s a warrior.”
Smith-Schuster leads the Trojans with 52 receptions for 956 yards and eight touchdowns.
USC’s receiving corps has weathered several injuries.
Junior Darreus Rogers returned against Cal after sitting out two of the previous three games because of a hamstring injury. He caught three passes for 16 yards.
Steven Mitchell Jr. also returned from a two-game absence because of an ankle injury and caught two passes for 11 yards.
Freshman Deontay Burnett and junior De’Quan Hampton have stepped up, and quarterback-turned-receiver Jalen Greene has contributed as a pass-catcher and thrower.
Cornerback Adoree’ Jackson also plays receiver.
“I’m totally confident in their ability, especially the way they’re progressing,” Helton said.
Kevon Seymour struggled through a knee injury this season, but the senior cornerback showed he was sound against Cal by intercepting his first pass of the season.
Seymour picked off a pass by quarterback Jared Goff in the fourth quarter and returned it 27 yards.
Seymour said he dropped four possible interceptions during practice last week.
“I just knew I would get my hand on one [against Cal] and capitalize,” he said.
The Trojans forced two other turnovers, giving them six in the last two games.
Linebacker Lamar Dawson caused a first-quarter fumble that safety Leon McQuay recovered, and Jackson returned his first interception for a touchdown.
“We’ve been doing that these last two games,” Seymour said, “and finishing.”
Freshman Iman Marshall supplanted Seymour as a starter, but Helton credited Seymour for persevering.
“He didn’t complain about lack of playing time or get frustrated with injuries or stuff — he just kept trying to get better,” Helton said. “He’s valuable member of our team and one we’re going to need down the stretch.”
Helton said he was impressed by the unselfishness of tailbacks Tre Madden, Justin Davis and Ronald Jones II. He said Jones’ role would continue to increase. . . . Helton credited the defense for controlling a Cal team that was averaging 37.9 points a game, the offensive line for opening up the running game, and quarterback Cody Kessler for a second consecutive efficient performance.