Tucker getting his shot

Sophomore linebacker Olajuwon Tucker is light on game experience, but he has spent the past week working with the first team defense at USC spring practice.

There is no shortage of Gardena (Calif.) Serra players on the Trojan football team. Last week one of the most memorable plays at practice was a battle between two former Serra Cavaliers.

Sophomore cornerback Adoree Jackson lined up at wide receiver against walk-on cornerback Jalen Jones, also known as "Peanut." Jackson ran a slant over the middle and into the end zone with Jones trailing slightly behind. The ball was delivered and it appeared Jackson had made the catch for the touchdown, but Jones got his hands in there somehow and came up with the interception.

Another Serra alum, sophomore linebacker Olajuwon Tucker, got a kick out of seeing his former high school teammates battle it out.

"They are roommates, so I know the competition is live," Tucker said about that play. "I thought it was great. I was out there cheering for Jalen. That's my boy from high school and to see him out here making plays and giving himself a name is great for him."

There are currently four former Cavaliers on the roster and three more will arrive over the summer.

“Oh this is lovely, just coming out and playing with the same dudes you had before," Tucker said about playing with former teammates. "You just like that bond, we’ve got to keep sticking together.”

Tucker has been working closely with linebackers coach Peter Sirmon trying to earn his way into the linebacker rotation.

“He’s given me way more pointers, making defense way easier for me, and I understand the defense more," he said. "I’m really coming in and really getting this bond together with the team and just coming out and competing on everybody.

“My goals are to be consistent and always improving, just getting better every day for me. That’s what coach has been preaching to me, it's something I have been trying to get to.”

After spring break Tucker was bumped up to the first team defense, playing WILL linebacker next to Lamar Dawson.

“It just kind of surprised me this week, they were just like ‘you’ll be running with the ones’," he said. "So I was just up for it and I was just ready for it.

“It’s feeling really great, coming out here, I didn’t have much experience last year. Coming in the spring and actually making a name for myself… so it’s been really good for me.”

Besides WILL, Tucker is also rotating to the outside rush spot with Scott Felix and Don Hill as well.

“Playing inside linebacker you have to be way more physical," he said. "Outside you’ve got to just have more finesse, and be physical as well.”

One of the players that has helped Tucker the most is the guy he is competing with for reps, junior linebacker Michael Hutchings.

“Especially when I first came in here he helped me out extremely, and I just really appreciate him and I really thank him for that.

“This whole experience has been great, being blessed to say I ran with the ‘ones’ in spring ball, and just see how much I’ve improved since I got here.”

Stay tuned to USCFootball.com for more updates from spring football.

Ryan Abraham has been the publisher of USCFootball.com since 1996. You can follow him on Twitter at @InsideTroy or email him at ryan@uscfootball.com .

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