USC coach Clay Helton has a lofty comparability for new Jets guard Alijah Vera-Tucker, whom Helton coached for the final three years.
“I think he’s in the mold of Quenton Nelson, having played him for years,” Helton informed The Post.
That could be Nelson, the Colts guard who has been All-Pro in every of his first three seasons and has established himself as the most effective guard in soccer.
No strain, Alijah.
Helton makes the comparability to Nelson, whom he confronted within the USC-Notre Dame sport yearly, as a result of he believes Vera-Tucker possesses a few of the identical traits.
“His versatility is what stands out to me first,” Helton mentioned. “I think he’s going to be a special interior player at guard with elite athleticism and feet. He has that tackle athleticism that’s elite at guard, but if you get in a pinch in a game or a season, you could always move him back out to tackle.”
The Jets traded up within the first spherical from No. 23 to 14 to take Vera-Tucker, surrendering two third-round picks within the course of. The commerce has drawn some criticism from those that consider GM Joe Douglas gave up an excessive amount of to transfer up to take a guard. If Vera-Tucker lives up to the billing that his school coaches give him, although, nobody will bear in mind the value the Jets paid.
Tim Drevno was Vera-Tucker’s offensive line coach at USC. He mentioned the 6-foot-4, 308-pounder is unflappable.
“He just doesn’t panic,” Drevno, now an assistant at UCLA, mentioned. “He stays in the moment, produces at a high level. If he makes a mistake, he’s not a repeat offender. He goes onto the next play and doesn’t let the last play affect him. That’s how he’s wired. He’s special. It’s not too big for him.”
Vera-Tucker began at left guard for the Trojans in 2019. When the staff misplaced left sort out Austin Jackson to the NFL after that season, they regarded to Vera-Tucker to transfer exterior. They solely had one spring follow due to COVID-19 and had to rush him to prepare for the season after they had an abbreviated coaching camp.
“He was the best offensive lineman on our team so we moved him out to left tackle,” Helton mentioned. “Man, did he hold down the position. To the point where I thought, at times, he was as productive, if not more, than Austin in an abbreviated season.”
Drevno mentioned there have been two video games Vera-Tucker performed with out training. The first got here after he had to sit out the week of follow due to contact tracing earlier than they performed Washington State. The second got here within the Pac-12 Championship in opposition to Oregon, when he had an injured hamstring. He performed via it and confronted Ducks edge-rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux, who initiatives as a prime decide in 2022. He held Thibodeaux to one sack even with the hamstring harm.
“He just absolutely gave everything he got,” Helton mentioned. “He didn’t care about where he was getting drafted. That’s just the guy he is.”
As a lot as he impressed his coaches on the sphere, they converse much more extremely of his character off of it. Vera-Tucker initially opted out of final season when it appeared the Pac-12 wouldn’t play. When the Pac-12 relented and determined to conduct an abbreviated season, Vera-Tucker opted in to be a part of his teammates for an additional run at a title.
“Some guys would say, ‘I’m out of here. I’m going on to pro football. I don’t care about this team’ and be selfish,” Drevno mentioned. “That’s not who he is. It was really a special thing for him to do that. He made the team bigger than himself. That’s truly who he is.”
Helton mentioned the Jets are getting a coach’s dream.
“He’s an unbelievable guy in the building. I’m talking about unbelievable,” Helton mentioned. “That’s why he was a team captain. He’s the same dude every day. He’s consistent, blue collar, hard-working, great teammate. He’s a pro’s pro. He’s a guy you want in your building.”