USC’s offensive line undoubtedly took a hit when tackle Austin Jackson graduated to the NFL after the 2019 season.
It took another hit Wednesday.
Redshirt junior offensive lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker announced via Twitter that he will forgo any potential 2020-21 college football season to declare and prepare for the 2021 NFL Draft.
“I am extremely blessed and thankful for the opportunity I have to be a part of a football team and earn an education that many dream about, but few get to experience,” Vera-Tucker wrote in a statement posted on Twitter. “It has been an honor to wear the Trojan uniform and represent this great University.”
Vera-Tucker was a left guard for the Trojans in 2019, earning a spot on the All-Pac-12 Second Team and AP All-Pac-12 First Team. Vera-Tucker won USC’s Offensive Lineman of the Year Award despite his teammate Jackson, who would go on to be a first round selection in the 2020 draft.
Vera-Tucker played guard in 2018 as well — serving as a backup on the right side of the line — but he was a candidate to move to left tackle to fill the void left by Jackson in the next season.
ESPN NFL Draft analyst Todd McShay ranked Vera-Tucker as the 38th best prospect overall and the third-best offensive guard in the 2021 draft class. Draft expert Mel Kiper ranked him as the fifth best offensive guard in the 2021 class back in May.
The 6-foot-4, 315-pound Oakland native is the second USC player to opt out of a potential spring season. Redshirt junior defensive lineman Jay Tufele announced Aug. 19 he is opting out and declaring for the draft as well.
“Thank you to my Trojan brothers!” Vera-Tucker wrote, also expressing gratitude for his coaches, academic support staff, parents, family, fans and God. “The bond here is real … Best believe I’m going to miss this family and playing with you. There is nothing like putting on that USC uniform and running out of that tunnel at the Coli with y’all. I know that climb to greatness won’t stop for any of us.”