When Alijah Vera-Tucker slid over to left deal with final season, stepping right into a spot vacated by an NFL draft first-rounder, there was little doubt that USC’s high inside lineman was its best choice on the blindside.
A 12 months later, with Vera-Tucker now additionally certain for the primary spherical, the highest possibility to switch him isn’t anyplace close to as clear. As USC opens spring follow subsequent Tuesday, there’s no larger query mark than the one at left deal with, the place 4 candidates have begun to state their case, however no apparent one has emerged via offseason exercises.
Essentially the most skilled of these 4 is already tentatively slated at proper deal with. Jalen McKenzie will enter this season as one of many Trojans’ most skilled linemen and shall be “within the combine” to modify to left deal with, coach Clay Helton mentioned. However Helton additionally spoke extremely of the three freshman linemen who emerged final season on the perimeter of the Trojans’ rotation up entrance.
“Courtland Ford has had a dynamic spring the final eight weeks,” Helton mentioned. “He’s proven his athleticism. We’ll check out him. Jonah Monheim additionally performed left deal with in highschool and helped play in a pair video games final 12 months. We’ll additionally check out him. And Casey Collier is actually approaching. 6-9, 317-pound athlete that’s actually developed a variety of core power. We’ll find yourself looking at him.”
5 weeks of spring follow ought to supply some extra perception into that pertinent place battle. However not one of the 4 is probably going to offer the consistency that Vera-Tucker did on the place final season.
His moonlighting at left deal with was spectacular sufficient that Vera-Tucker mentioned a number of groups are evaluating him as a lineman able to taking part in offensive deal with and guard. That versatility alone was cause sufficient to justify his return to USC final season.
“I believe it raised my inventory rather a lot,” Vera-Tucker mentioned. “On the finish of the day, glad coach put me on the market and the crew had religion in me to guard Kedon [Slovis] from that deal with place. General, I’m glad I performed there. It was an excellent expertise.”
Sophser out for spring
Former four-star defensive deal with Ishmael Sophser transferred to USC from Alabama in quest of taking part in time this offseason. However after present process compartment syndrome surgical procedure in February, the 6-foot-4, 330-pound behemoth will most likely have to attend a bit longer for his USC debut.
“He’s simply coming off that surgical procedure, and hopefully he’ll be again with us someday later this spring,” Helton mentioned. “Hopefully [he’s] totally wholesome and able to go over the summer time.”
USC will get to see its three different transfers take the sector this spring. Since their arrivals, Helton mentioned he’s been “pleasantly happy” with wideout KD Nixon, operating again Keaontay Ingram and security Xavian Alford, all of whom will most likely vie for main roles within the coming months.
Six months since he was first suspended amid an investigation into EDD fraud on campus, sophomore wideout Munir McClain remains to be on USC’s roster, however stays suspended, Helton mentioned. … Linebacker Palaie Gaoteote has but to discover a new dwelling and is at present listed on USC’s spring roster. Helton mentioned he’s nonetheless within the switch portal, however “the door is at all times open” for a return to USC. … The Trojans don’t plan to pursue a quarterback within the switch portal. Helton mentioned that freshman quarterbacks Jaxson Dart and Miller Moss have each had “an amazing offseason.” … USC will maintain its Professional Day on Wednesday. Spring follow begins March 30.
This story initially appeared in Los Angeles Instances.