USC receiver Smith-Schuster still uncertain for Saturday
LOS ANGELES (AP) Southern California is preparing to play without injured receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster this week, but interim coach Clay Helton wouldn't be surprised if the Pac-12 leader in yards receiving declares himself ready to go against Arizona.
Smith-Schuster had surgery to stabilize his broken right hand Monday, with doctors inserting a screw and plate to address the injury he suffered in the 27-21 win at Cal last weekend. The sophomore will be in a hard cast for one more day, at which point his availability against the Wildcats becomes a matter of pain tolerance, Helton said.
''Our plan right now, you've got to plan for him not to be there, but he is Superman,'' Helton said Wednesday. ''It wouldn't shock me if all of a sudden he says Thursday or Friday, `Coach, I'm ready.' His mindset always is to play.''
Smith-Schuster was dressed in pads for practice Wednesday, but did not catch any passes. The extent of his participation was using his left hand to try and punch balls loose from his fellow receivers during a turnover-prevention drill.
The Trojans (5-3, 3-2 Pac-12) host the Wildcats (5-4, 2-4) on Saturday night.
''Really we want to lean on the doctors, the training staff, and how he is feeling,'' Helton said. ''We're not going to put a kid out there that is not ready. If he's ready, he is ready. If not, we'll save him for the next game.''
Smith-Schuster has 52 receptions for 956 yards and eight touchdowns this season, leading the Trojans in all three categories. He leads Gabe Marks of pass-happy Washington State by 156 yards to top the Pac-12 in yards receiving, while ranking third in catches and touchdown receptions.