USC wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster announced on Twitter Saturday that he will enter the NFL Draft and forego his senior season.
"After discussing it with my family and coaches, I have decided to take the next step in chasing my dreams and enter the 2017 NFL Draft," Smith-Schuster wrote in the letter he tweeted out.
Smith-Schuster, who turned 20 years old in November, was USC's leading receiver for the second season in a row.
He is fourth on USC's all-time list for receptions (213), fifth in yards (3,092), and fifth in touchdowns (25).
"This was a very difficult decision to make," he wrote. "I have loved my time at USC and wouldn't trade it for anything in the world."
In 2016, Smith-Schuster had a team-high 914 receiving yards and a team-high 10 touchdowns. In 2015, as quarterback Cody Kessler's main target, he broke the 1,000-yard receiving mark and racked up 1,454 receiving yards alongside 10 touchdowns. He finished his USC career with 3.092 receiving yards and 25 touchdowns in three seasons.
Smith-Schuster joins junior offensive lineman Damien Mama as the two first USC players to leave the program early. Only cornerback and all-around star Adoree' Jackson remains on the list of possible USC players who could leave early to enter the draft.
For Smith-Schuster, the move to the NFL could prove to be vindicated or doubted come draft time, as there seems to be little consensus on his projected spot, according to various early mock drafts. To wit: Pro Football Focus says Smith-Schuster is the 12th pick in the draft, while Walter Football puts him at fifth pick in the second round (37th overall).
At USC, Smith-Schuster's departure will leave the Trojans without their top receiver from the last few years, but the corps that remains, as well as the more balanced Sam Darnold under center, should make his absence only nominally felt next season.
Deontay Burnett, who broke out in 2016 with 622 receiving yards and seven touchdowns, will likely become Darnold's top target next season. The return of Steven Mitchell Jr. from ACL injury will also be an added boon for the position group that loses senior Darreus Rogers—USC's second leading receiver in 2016—as well.
USC will also expect a group of talented freshmen wide receiver to step into the fold and contribute right away. Michael Pittman, who did play in 2016 and caught six balls for 82 yards, is the projected top contributor from the young group.
A foursome of redshirt freshmen in Trevon Sidney, Velus Jones, Josh Imatorbhebhe and Tyler Vaughns could also parlay their athletic upside into being consistent contributors next season.