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OL Alijah Vera-Tucker: I'll Play Where Jets Need Me

No. 14 Pick Could Form an Imposing Left-Side Duo With Mekhi Becton

An image of Southern California's Alijah Vera-Tucker is on a screen after he was chosen by the New York Jets with the 14th pick in the first round of the NFL football draft, Thursday, April 29, 2021, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Jets opponents in the 17-game 2021 NFL season might have to prepare for "Student Body Left."

General Manager Joe Douglas struck early and struck quickly in the 2021 NFL Draft on Thursday night, sending the No. 23, No. 66 and No. 86 selections to Minnesota for No. 14 and No. 143.

After making QB Zach Wilson the No. 2 pick, with the 14th selection the Jets added another young, imposing offensive lineman in Alijah Vera-Tucker, 21, out of the University of Southern California. Vera-Tucker (6-4, 315) could slot in at left guard in a zone scheme meaning the Jets would boast a left side that includes the second-year tackle Mekhi Becton (6-7, 364) -- not to mention a shield on Wilson's blind side and a moving mountain of manpower in the run game.

Though Becton was one of the first to congratulate Vera-Tucker on social media, AVT said he has not met or spoken to his new teammate.

"I know they picked him early last year and I saw he did some pretty good things," Vera-Tucker said on a Zoom call. "I'm excited to play with him on the offensive line."

Vera-Tucker (whose full name is Solomon Alijah Lewis Vera-Tucker) has played guard and tackle, on both sides of the offensive line. He initially opted out of the 2020 season when the Pac-12 canceled its season, but he opted back in when the conference announced a delayed, shortened season.

Asked for a personal scouting report, he did not hold back: "Real physical, a high IQ for the game, quick feet, get to second level real quick, quick hands. Bring it all together and you get a dominant player."

After playing left guard for the Trojans in 2019, Vera-Tucker moved to left tackle and excelled. He was a first-team All-Pac-12 selection and the Morris Trophy winner, given to the Pac 12's top tackle. Most draft analysts projected him to play guard on the pro level and many rated him the top guard in the draft.

Vera-Tucker said all the right things for a rookie on Thursday night, acknowledging that he's played several positions, but steering clear of declaring his favorite spot, instead saying: "I played left guard, left tackle and right guard. At the end of the day, I'll play where coaches need me."

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