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USC Football

USC Scoop's A Pair Of Takes: Biggest Offseason Departure

January 12, 2021

Josh An

This was a tough choice to make considering how much all-around talent USC is losing at multiple spots this offseason. On offense, Amon-Ra St.Brown, Tyler Vaughns, Alijah Vera-Tucker are all going pro while Markese Stepp has decided to continue his collegiate career elsewhere. On defense, the unit will lose arguably its best defensive lineman in Marlon Tuipulotu and cornerback in Olaijah Griffin.

While all of the aforementioned players have made great contributions at USC and I’m tempted to choose Alijah Vera-Tucker, Pac-12 DPOY Talanoa Hufanga will be the toughest to replace next year for Todd Orlando and USC. Now, USC will bring in a talented DB class that also includes Texas transfer and former high school All-American Xavion Alford. I’m also very high on Craig Naivar both as a recruiter and a talent developer. However, it’s incredibly difficult to replace a unique talent like Hufanga that played multiple positions and racked up 62 tackles, 5.5 TFL, 3 sacks, 2 FF, and 4 INT in just 6 games. 

I’m personally very intriuged to see how the defensive staff adjusts to this loss and which newcomer slides into Hufanga’s spot next season. I also wouldn’t be surprised if there are some moments next season where we see just how big the loss of Hufanga is to the defense.

Marc Kulkin

As Josh so eloquently outlined above, choosing the most significant loss is like asking parents to choose their favorite child. But in the interests of the remaining players, and staying objective, I'll pick the next player whose loss I feel will be felt the most next season unless someone can make their presence known.

USC anticipates everyone's return from their offensive line group that played significant minutes in 2020.  Almost everyone.  Everyone except for the most valuable piece and Kedon Slovis' backside protection, Alijah Vera-Tucker.

AVT might be the most underrated USC O-lineman to play for the Trojans in their long and illustrious line of Trojan greats. I say underrated with tongue-in-cheek; however, Alijah does his job without all the fanfare in a very business-like style; AVT is the epitome of tough and disciplined. And with the Trojan’s offensive line coaching search still in the flint-striking with a hope and a prayer mode, making sure the left tackle position is filled has become priority No.1 on the offensive side of the ball this offseason.

To highlight just how good a player AVT was in 2020, he was just named the Morris Trophy winner as the PAC-12 Conference's best offensive lineman, making him the first Trojan to win the award since Matt Kalil 10 years ago.

The Trojans do have a roster of candidates ready and willing to fill the void being left behind with AVT's departure to the NFL; however, the person who fills his shoes should have the same mental make-up that Vera-Tucker used because, with the way the season almost never happened, he could have decided to get ready for the NFL.  Instead, the (RS)junior released a statement via social media telling the Trojan Family, "The opportunity to rejoin my teammates, represent the Trojan Family and continue to advance towards my degree and compete for a Pac-12 championship this season is something I could not pass up."

The Trojan's 2021 season led by a Heisman candidate at quarterback will be quickly derailed if the left tackle position is not filled with someone who can play through pain like AVT did in 2020 and keep Slovis's uniform clean.

Vera-Tucker played in 31 games as a Trojan, starting the last 19 games of his Trojan career.--That's a significant loss at a position that protects the most significant piece of "who the Trojans are."

Tags: Football
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