June 24, 2021

Bears draft targets: What to know about USC’s Alijah Vera-Tucker

Among offensive linemen the Bears should have their eyes on heading into next week’s NFL draft is USC’s Alijah Vera-Tucker. Shaw Local analyst Hub Arkush rates Vera-Tucker as the No. 4 tackle in the 2021 NFL draft.

There’s some debate whether Vera-Tucker is a tackle or a guard. Many outlets have him rated as the No. 1 guard in the draft. Arkush sees potential at tackle.

“He has the frame to easily add 10 to 20 pounds in the weight room without losing quickness and the special athleticism and feet you want in a left tackle,” Arkush wrote.

Prep: Vera-Tucker grew up in Oakland and went to Bishop O’Dowd High School, where he started on the offensive line as a sophomore. He helped his team win a state championship as a senior offensive tackle and defensive lineman.

He was a highly sought-after recruit rated 114th overall and 14th among offensive tackles in the class of 2017. He had offers from more than a dozen schools, but ultimately chose USC.

Personal: Vera-Tucker goes by his middle name Alijah. His given name at birth was Solomon Alijah Tucker. His parents divorced when he was young and both later remarried. Alijah added his stepdad’s last name, Vera, to his given name when he was in high school and legally changed his name in college. According to USCTrojans.com, he wanted to feel more connected to his little sisters, whose last name is Vera. He has “Vera” tattoo’d on one forearm and “Tucker” tattoo’d on the other.

College: Vera-Tucker started 19 games in his Trojans career, with all of his starts coming over the past two seasons. He started 13 games at left guard in 2019 and six games at left tackle in 2020. As a redshirt junior in 2020, he was an All-Pac 12 performer and an honorable mention All-American. He won the Morris Trophy as the Pac 12′s top offensive lineman in 2020.

Outlook: Vera-Tucker, at 6-foot-4, 308 pounds, is on the smaller side for an NFL tackle. His arms measured in at 32 1/8 inches and his hands are 9 5/8 inches, which are small for a tackle. It comes down to whether NFL personnel believe he is a tackle or a guard. If a team is looking to use him as a guard, Vera-Tucker is a can’t-miss prospect.

NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah called Vera-Tucker one of his “favorite players in the whole draft.”

“He can play darned near anywhere,” Jeremiah said. “I think he’s going to be an All-Pro guard. He can hold up at tackle if you wanted him to. But you want to get better along that offensive line, I think he’s just one of the cleanest, safest picks in the whole draft.”

From the Bears’ perspective, it’s entirely possible Vera-Tucker will be gone by the time they select at No. 20 overall. While overall offensive line depth is needed, the Bears likely need to take a true tackle. They have a huge hole at right tackle since releasing Bobby Massie. Vera-Tucker is a slam dunk guard, but moving him to tackle could be a work in progress.

Sean Hammond

Sean is the Chicago Bears beat reporter for Shaw Media. He also contributes to high school football coverage at Friday Night Drive. Sean has covered various sports at the amateur, college and professional levels since 2012. He joined Shaw Media in 2016.