If USC football is able to play a fall season, NFL opt-outs Alijah Vera-Tucker and Jay Tufele could come back.
USC football looks closer than ever to playing this fall after the Pac-12 gained state-level approval to hold practices on Wednesday. For Alijah Vera-Tucker and Jay Tufele, that may be a game-changer.
Could the two Trojan big men, who declared early for the NFL draft when it seemed the Pac-12 wouldn’t restart until 2021, opt back in?
The ball is in their court. Their decisions could have huge ramifications for USC’s season.
USC football needs to recruit Alijah Vera-Tucker and Jay Tufele back to the roster.
Vera-Tucker opted out last Wednesday but there are no public indications he has yet signed with an agent.
If he hasn’t, it would be fairly easy for him to return to the Trojans like Neil Farrell for LSU and Wyatt Davis for Ohio State.
Jay Tufele, however, is among the players who have already signed with an agent, according to Albert Breer of The MMQB.
That doesn’t mean he is completely barred from potentially returning. After all, the NCAA granted ASU punter Michael Turk a waiver to restore his eligibility even though he declared for the 2020 draft, hired an agent and went to the Combine. He blamed COVID-19 for going undrafted and the NCAA had pity on him.
If Turk could use the COVID-19 excuse, then so should Pac-12 players who opted out because the coronavirus canceled their season before an unlikely turn of events brought the season back.
Either Vera-Tucker or Tufele returning to the Trojans would make a huge difference for the team and their pursuit of the Pac-12 title.
Vera-Tucker was USC’s most reliable offensive lineman as a guard in 2019. He was also the Trojans’ best option for replacing Austin Jackson at left tackle in 2020. Without him, it’s likely a player with little-to-no playing experience would be tasked with protecting Kedon Slovis’ blindside.
Tufele was USC’s best lineman on the other side of the ball. The defensive tackle was an All-Pac-12 first-team selection with 4.5 sacks from the interior. The ceiling for the defensive front is limited sans Tufele, while quality depth is an even greater concern.