75 days to USC football: Alijah Vera-Tucker ready to live up to No. 75

RoT Countdown / Photo by Alicia de Artola (Reign of Troy)
RoT Countdown / Photo by Alicia de Artola (Reign of Troy) /

Alijah Vera-Tucker is on the verge of a breakout season with USC football, which is good news for the continuing success of the No. 75 jersey.

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USC football will be back on the Coliseum floor in only 75 days. Just call it the diamond day of the countdown to kickoff.

We at Reign of Troy are marking each day of the march to the 2019 season with a look back and ahead for each Trojan jersey number.

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Today, the No. 75 gets top billing:

Who wore it best?

Three Trojans have worn the No. 75 and achieved All-American heights. Each has a unique story.

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Matt Kalil was arguably the greatest of the three. He arrived at USC as Ryan Kalil’s younger brother, and left with his own strong legacy.

He was essential to USC’s success in 2011, when he was named the Morris Trophy winner and an All-American while protecting Matt Barkley and ripping open holes for the running game. The Trojans results in 2012 in his absence speak for themselves.

Plus, Kalil was monstrous on special teams. At 6-foot-7, he was a nightmare to defend on kicks and racked up five blocks in his career.

Before Kalil, Mark Tucker was an All-American at offensive guard.

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In 1988, Tucker picked up the first of two All-Pac-10 selections. The second would come in 1990.

What happened in 1989? That is when Tucker put his name on USC’s All-American Wall as Football News and the Gannett News Service included him in their All-American first teams.

Funnily enough, the Pac-10 only recognized him as a second teamer. Teammate and fellow guard Brent Parkinson made it into the first team ahead of him, along with Morris Trophy winner Bern Brostek of Washington.

Tucker and Kalil ultimately walked in John Vella’s shadow. And that’s only because of a series of position changes.

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Vella started out at offensive tackle for the Trojans in 1969, but he swapped over to the defensive side of the ball in 1970. He recovered a Joe Theismann fumble for a touchdown as USC upset previously-unbeaten Notre Dame 38-28 to end that season, which is particularly ironic as he hailed from Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks. He also led the team with eight pass deflections on the defensive line.

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The 1971 Trojans needed to replace All-American tackle Marv Montgomery, and they turned to Vella for that job. He switched back to offense and promptly proved John McKay and company right by garnering an All-American nod himself.

Who wears it now?

The No. 75 belongs to Alijah Vera-Tucker going into the 2019 season and he is well-placed to bring the jersey back to prominence.

The 6-foot-4, 310-pound guard served as a backup in 2018, but there were serious calls for him to ascend to a starting position thanks to his strong cameo performances.

This year, the graduation of Chris Brown opened the door for Vera-Tucker to take over the vacant left guard position and he held it down throughout Spring Camp.

It will be his first year as a starter on a rebuilt offensive line, so the hype may need to be tempered just slightly, especially he is replacing USC’s most consistent lineman from last season. Still, Vera-Tucker has the size, skill and attitude to make a difference up front.

Stats to know: 75

  • Running back Ricky Bell was USC’s 75th All-American in 1975. He was a unanimous selection.
  • Defensive tackle Tim Ryan had 75 tackles in 1988 when he achieved the first of two All-American nods. Outside linebacker Uchenna Nwosu matched that tackle total in 2017 when he was named an All-American.
  • In 1969, “The Wild Bunch” of Jimmy Gunn, Charles Weaver, Al Cowlings and company sacked UCLA quarterback Dennis Dummet 10 times for a total loss of 75 yards in a 14-12 victory.
  • In the 1990 Rose Bowl, USC marched 75 yards in 11 plays for the winning score, a 14-yard touchdown from MVP Ricky Ervins with 1:10 left on the clock.
  • Georgia Tech managed just 75 yards passing in the 2012 Sun Bowl. They, of course, still won the game 21-14 as USC amassed a whopping 107 passing yards.

Next. 76 Days to Kickoff