JuJu Smith-Schuster’s availability for USC uncertain after hand surgery
Despite a rash of injuries, USC’s depth at key positions helped the Trojans win their last two games.
But is the receiving corps deep enough to handle the loss of JuJu Smith-Schuster? USC could find out Saturday night against Arizona.
Smith-Schuster, the Trojans’ top receiver, underwent surgery Monday afternoon for a fracture he suffered in his right hand against California.
Interim Coach Clay Helton, in a weekly university-produced video released before the surgery, gave no timetable for Smith-Schuster’s return, saying some players have recovered from the procedure “as soon as three days” while others have taken longer.
“When he’s healthy and feels like he can go back out there, he will,” Helton said.
Later, after the surgery, Helton said on his radio show, “Everybody heals different, so we’ll see how it goes with JuJu. . . . He’s the type of kid if he can be back he will, but we want to do everything possible to make sure he’s healthy first.”
Junior De’Quan Hampton is listed on the depth chart behind Smith-Schuster. Hampton has five receptions for 84 yards.
Smith-Schuster was injured Saturday while returning a first-quarter kickoff in USC’s 27-21 victory at Berkeley, which improved the Trojans’ record to 5-3 overall and 3-2 in the Pac-12 Conference.
The sophomore caught five passes for 55 yards.
Smith-Schuster has a team-best 52 receptions for 956 yards and eight touchdowns.
It’s becoming a weekly occurrence: Tailback Ronald Jones II impresses during a game and Helton says the freshman’s role will grow.
Despite a sore knee, Jones rushed for 80 yards and a touchdown in 11 carries against Cal. He leads the Trojans with 533 yards and is averaging 7.6 yards per carry.
“Whenever my number’s called, I just try to make the most of my opportunity,” Jones said after the Cal victory.
Jones showed his burst again on the 13-yard yard scoring run.
“The play’s actually supposed to hit wider, but I guess [guard] Damien Mama sealed it so perfectly, I was able to cut right off his backside for the touchdown,” Jones said.
Jones had the first two carries on the Trojans’ final possession before Helton replaced him with senior Tre Madden for a key third down.
Helton said he opted for Madden because of his size and experience in short-yardage situations.
“He’s going to do great things here,” Helton said of Jones, “and his role is going to increase with each game.”
Freshman receiver Deontay Burnett, who joined the Trojans after the start of training camp, has performed beyond expectations.
Burnett had three receptions for 82 yards against Cal and has been a valuable player since moving into the rotation against Notre Dame. He has seven catches and is averaging 20.7 yards per reception.
Su’a Cravens is among 10 semifinalists for the Butkus Award, presented annually to college football’s top linebacker. Chris Claiborne in 1988 became the only USC player to win the award. . . . USC’s trip home from Berkeley was delayed several hours because of mechanical issues with the team charter.
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