Every time Oakland (Calif.) Bishop O’Dowd four-star offensive tackle Alijah Vera-Tucker steps on the USC campus, it becomes more and more like home.
After a couple of trips to Los Angeles throughout the season to watch the Trojans play in the Coliseum, Vera-Tucker took his official visit this weekend and it reaffirmed everything he is looking forward to the next four years of his football career.
“SC to me is a great place,” Vera-Tucker said. “I love how much the coaches showed me love, how much the players showed me love. Everybody treated me well. I just had a great time. I really got the family vibe like I did the very first time. I just feel more comfortable every time I go down there, so I had a really good time.”
The 6-foot-4.5, 290-pound lineman was hosted by freshman lineman Frank Martin II, but said he also spent time with other offensive linemen and redshirt freshman tight end Daniel Imatorbhebhe, who Vera-Tucker spoke highly of. Vera-Tucker picked his soon-to-be teammates brains learning about the sometimes tumultuous transition from high school to college — the expectations both on the field and in the classroom.
“They said it's really fast, but if you just put in the dedication and work, it's going to come naturally to you. I really appreciated that and it made me feel more comfortable. Also, just talking about personal things. I just had that good vibe that I'm loved and I'm going to fit in well at SC even more than I [felt] before.”
One of the changes the No. 175 overall prospect in the 2017 Scout 300 may have to endure is a position switch. During his discussions with offensive line coach Neil Callaway, Vera-Tucker was told that California’s top tackle in this recruiting cycle may not end up at tackle when he gets to USC. Things are far from settled, but one of the things the coaching staff likes about Vera-Tucker is his potential position versatility.
“Right now he said he can't really tell where he's going to put me. I could be at tackle, guard and maybe even center, he said, just because of my footwork,” Vera-Tucker said. “Right now, I'm most likely probably either a guard or a tackle.”
If he plays either of those positions, Vera-Tucker believes he can come in and compete right away. Even after the departures of starting tackles Chad Wheeler and Zach Banner and right guard Damien Mama, USC still has plenty of talented linemen on the roster, but Vera-Tucker maintains a competitive mindset.
“I'm always going in with a mentality that I'm going to start,” he said. “Obviously, I'm going to have to put in a lot of hard work because there's a lot of great players there already, but it's just what it is. In the offseason, it’s all about the mentality that I'm going to come to SC and I'm going to fight for my position.”
There wasn’t much new for Vera-Tucker to learn on this trip. He has been committed to USC since the beginning of August. He did meet some of the school’s new professors and got to spend more time with some of his future teammates, but it was a new experience that stood out for Vera-Tucker.
“The highlight of the trip was probably getting to walk out of the tunnel of the Coliseum with all the recruits and all the commits with Coach [Clay] Helton,” Vera-Tucker said. “Just getting that good feel. When you walk out of that tunnel, it's just a feeling like no other.
“I’ve never had that feeling before at any other school when I walk out to the stadium, so that's probably the highlight of [the trip].”
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