USC's JuJu Smith-Schuster's week apparently isn't going much better than his weekend.
Three days after the Trojans star wide receiver was limited to only one catch for 9 yards in an embarrassing 52-6 loss to Alabama, the junior was involved in an altercation at practice with teammates. Smith-Schuster took exception to a celebration after a pass breakup, and threw more than one punch at safety Ykili Ross, according to The Los Angeles Times. The All-Pac-12 receiver then took the fight to another USC defender before kicking a football in frustration. He then disengaged from practice and sat slumped against a wall, rejoining the team after being spoken to by star cornerback Adoree' Jackson, coach Clay Helton, and offensive coordinator Tee Martin, according to the Times.
Helton downplayed the incident.
"Every day is a game to that kid, and that's what I appreciate about him," Helton said. "Scuffles happen in football practice, and we're all brothers out here. Everyone hugged up and went on."
Photos of Smith-Schuster at practice appeared to depict some of his frustration.
Said offensive tackle Zach Banner: "When you get a lot of anger off of what happened on Saturday, disappointment with ourselves, I think you let emotions fly. It's unacceptable. You're not allowed to do that with your teammates."
Smith-Schuster declined to speak with reporters after practice.
It's not hard to understand why Smith-Schuster (6-foot-2, 220 pounds) might have been prickly.
After catching 89 passes for 1,454 yards last year, the junior had an ideal opportunity to impress scouts from 11 NFL clubs against Alabama, and in particular against one of college football's top cornerbacks in Marlon Humphrey. Instead, he didn't catch his only pass until late in the third quarter, with the Trojans hopelessly trailing 38-3. As a junior, Smith-Schuster could be available in the 2017 NFL Draft if he chooses to apply for early draft eligibility after the season. NFL.com analyst Lance Zierlein rated him the No. 4 receiver to watch in college football over the summer.
Dust-ups in practice aren't uncommon, and Smith-Schuster's shouldn't necessarily be a red flag for NFL scouts regarding his attitude. After all, former UCLA LB Myles Jack was ejected from a practice as a sophomore in 2014, and again during fall camp last year, but NFL scouts were said to be high on Jack from a character standpoint prior to the NFL draft.
With a forgettable game in the rear-view mirror, the best advice for USC is also best for its star receiver: Turn the page, move on and focus on a rebound performance against Utah State on Saturday.