Oakland (Calif.) Bishop O’Dowd offensive tackle Alijah Vera-Tucker saw his recruiting stock explode over the past few months with most of the Pac-12 coming through with scholarship offers by the end of February.
That included USC and UCLA, two schools he will unofficially visit this week.
“I actually visit UCLA Friday and then go back for a practice Saturday, but I got to see USC (Thursday),” said Vera-Tucker. “I’ve always heard great things about SC, and when I went up there, all of the coaches were very welcoming.
“The players were all cool too. I went and toured the campus and everything was really nice. I could really see myself being there as a student-football player. I thought it was really nice.”
At 6-foot-4, 275-pounds, Vera-Tucker doesn’t have the frame of a prototypical left tackle, but his athleticism affords him the unique ability to still play on the edge of the offensive line. That ability has garnered comparisons to USC sophomore offensive tackle Chuma Edoga.
“I talked to the offensive line coach, Neil Callaway, and he said they would put me out at left tackle,” said Vera-Tucker. “Then I asked him about the offensive line and how he coaches. We talked about that and his players for a while. We built a pretty close relationship after that.”
But seeing is believing, and Vera-Tucker spent much of the afternoon with the team going through spring drills.
“First, I thought the practice was at a very, very high tempo,” said Vera-Tucker. “It was one of the fastest paced practices I’ve ever seen.
“Then I watched the offensive line, the pass blocking and footwork they used. One of Neil Callway’s main focuses at USC is technique. It was a really cool experience seeing that up close.”
Vera-Tucker is still taking his time with the recruiting process, but he does have a timeline for eliminating some of his options.
“I’m thinking of narrowing it down to a top five or something by mid-summer or before my senior year,” said Vera-Tucker. “I’d like to focus on my senior season and ball out, so I’m ready for the next level.
“One of my main focuses to keep my fire is that I know when I get to college I’m not just going to walk in and be a starter. I’m going to have to work my way up to the top and that starts now. I can’t slack off, I have to ball out.
“Also, winning a state championship with my team is one of the things I think about.”
USC’s showing this week should secure them a place among Vera-Tucker’s favorites come cut time.
“I think they’re among that top five, but I couldn’t really say where they are in that group right now,” said Vera-Tucker. “I definitely see them among my top five schools though.
“Meeting the coaches and talking with the players, it’s a place I could see myself going. Obviously, everyone knows that USC can play ball, but the academics are really good too. I can see why it would be a dream school for someone.
“USC is definitely in my top five, I just don’t know where yet.”