Now, after a six-game slate that saw USC come up short of a Pac-12 title but helped solidify his future, Vera-Tucker told the Los Angeles Times on Monday that he would enter the NFL draft.
His initial return to USC ahead of this season helped lift a Trojans offensive line that could have been vulnerable without him protecting quarterback Kedon Slovis’ blindside. Without an obvious replacement for Austin Jackson at left tackle, the redshirt junior was moved from left guard to tackle ahead of the season and largely thrived in the new position.
In the NFL, he’s expected to shift back to the interior, where he’ll be one of the draft’s top prospects. Some draft prognosticators view the 6-foot-4, 315-pound lineman as a potential first-round pick. He would be the second USC offensive lineman drafted in the first round in the last two drafts. Jackson was selected 18th overall by the Miami Dolphins last spring.
Vera-Tucker’s versatility certainly will be a selling point. As a redshirt sophomore, Vera-Tucker started all 13 games at left guard and was named to the All-Pac-12 second team. A year later, after starting every game at left tackle, Vera-Tucker was elevated to the conference’s first team offensive line.
He hadn’t played offensive tackle since high school but excelled anyway, even as spring practice was shut down and fall camp was limited. That experience should help raise his stock ahead of April’s draft.
Vera-Tucker had considered declaring for the previous draft at this time last year, following a redshirt sophomore season in which he established himself as arguably USC’s best offensive lineman. He chose to return to USC, however, only to declare for the draft when the Pac-12 season was going to be delayed until spring.
That decision was reversed less than a month later, but with USC’s season over and several draft decisions imminent, Vera-Tucker made his exit official.
Decisions from the likes of wideouts Amon-ra St. Brown and Tyler Vaughns, safety Talanoa Hufanga, and defensive tackle Marlon Tuipulotu are expected in the coming days.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.