USC to play Cinderella finding someone to fill Alijah Vera-Tucker's shoes

USC football lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker.
USC football lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker. / Katharine Lotze/Getty Images

USC football needs to locate a replacement for Alijah Vera-Tucker at left tackle. The Trojans have identified four linemen who are prepared to compete for the job.

Far and away the biggest question of USC football's offseason concerns the left tackle position.

Who will replace Alijah Vera-Tucker?

The Morris Trophy winner leaves behind huge shoes to fill. New offensive line coach Clay McGuire needs to figure out who can fit them. It's a veritable Cinderella scenario.

On Monday, Trojan head coach Clay Helton narrowed the field somewhat.

According to Ryan Young of, the Trojans plan to give four players a look at left tackle: Jalen McKenzie, Courtland Ford, Jonah Monheim, and Casey Collier.

The Case for Jalen McKenzie

McKenzie is the only lineman of the four with extensive playing experience. He has made 21 starts, 11 at right guard and eight at right tackle. Phil Steele named him an All-Pac-12 third teamer in 2020 while he earned an honorable mention nod from the all-conference team.

The trouble for McKenzie is how much we've seen of him. He held down the fort at right tackle, but it wasn't always pretty. He's been bested by speed rushers on the outside and has struggled with consistency.

A new offensive line coach may be what he needs to smooth out his game and prove himself worthy of protecting Kedon Slovis' blindside. That's not a job you'd ideally want to give to an inexperienced player, so McKenzie would be the safest choice.

The Case for Courtland Ford

Ford had the attention of some major programs in high school. He was even committed to LSU at one point. However, his recruitment fell off significantly as he recovered from injury, allowing USC to swoop in and pick him up from Cedar Hill, Texas.

As soon as he arrived on campus, Ford impressed coaches with his size and maturity. He was thrust into action in the starting left guard spot against Washington, gaining valuable experience as a true freshman.

With some serious potential at his disposal, Ford would be the most exciting option to elevate into the starting lineup at left tackle.

The Case for Jonah Monheim

Monheim was the highest-rated offensive lineman in USC's class of 2020. While the Trojans focused on bringing in diamonds in the rough, Monheim arrived with more polish.

Like Ford, he was mentioned among the freshman offensive linemen who impressed the most during the 2020 offseason and ended up playing significant minutes at right guard against Washington State.

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It would be no surprise to see Monheim command a utility role for the Trojans, capable of filling in at tackle or guard, though the obvious goal will be to win the open starting job.

The Case for Casey Collier

Collier is one big dude. At 6-foot-7, 290 pounds, he presents the most intriguing option from the physical side of things. That kind of wingspan would be invaluable on Slovis' blindside.

Along with Ford and Monheim, outgoing left tackle Alijah Vera-Tucker highlighted Collier as one of the young offensive linemen who impressed him most last year. In fact, Collier was the listed backup behind AVT, on the depth chart, though he never saw action there.

This offseason will give him the chance to step right up into that starting position.

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