Football

Trojans showcase most NFL Draft prospects since 2011

All eyes are on six USC draft prospects as they measure up at Pro Day before the NFL Draft.

Wednesday’s USC football Pro Day served as an opportunity for USC’s NFL draft prospects to solidify or improve their draft status. For the 2021 NFL draft class, USC has plenty of prospects headlined by offensive lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker and wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown.

Typically, unless limited by injury, all prospects are expected to run a timed 40-yard dash and complete a three-cone drill, vertical jump and long jump. In addition to the on-field activities, there are tests in the weight room as well.

All 32 NFL teams were in attendance to see the Trojans on Wednesday. Whether it was the player interviews on Monday or the Pro Day events, scouts and personnel were taking note.

Vera-Tucker was the big ticket player. Widely regarded as a first-rounder and one of the best offensive linemen in the draft, Vera-Tucker ran a 5.10 40-yard dash and recorded 36 bench press reps. These numbers separated him from other interior offensive linemen in the draft.

Vera-Tucker got specific attention from some high-level NFL personnel like Vikings general manager Rick Spielman and Raiders general manager Mike Mayock and performed drills with NFL position coaches on the side. NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah compares him to Cowboys All-Pro guard Zack Martin.

St. Brown’s measurables received many comparisons to former Trojan Robert Woods, according to NFL Network’s Omar Ruiz. It is clear that St. Brown will be a top receiver prospect in the draft after his Pro Day performance.

St. Brown ran a 4.51 40-yard dash and performed up to his expectations. He also notched 20 bench press reps and hit good times in the cone drills.

Fellow wide receiver Tyler Vaughns, a projected late-round pick, also wanted to showcase his speed at Pro Day. Both St. Brown and Vaughns credited wide receivers coach Keary Colbert for preparing them for their big moment. Colbert went through a similar process when he was drafted out of USC in the second round in 2004.

“He gave me a lot of knowledge about the NFL,” Vaughns said. “He did not treat us like college players, more so like NFL players. He’s going to be a good guide for us when we get to the NFL.”

On the defensive side, safety Talanoa Hufanga ran a 4.61 40-yard dash, extinguishing all concerns that he may dip into the 4.7 range. Hufanga has been preparing for the draft with former Trojan safety and Hall of Famer Troy Polamalu. Mostly, he showed his fluidity and sharp moves in the secondary.

Defensive lineman Jay Tufele, who opted out of the 2020 season, was also able to show out. Tufele, a former five-star recruit, was eager to show everyone that he has been working hard and staying ready. Tufele ran a 4.97 second 40-yard dash and pumped 30 reps.

Defensive tackle Marlon Tuipolutu had a pre-existing hamstring injury so he did not run the full 40 yards, instead only running a 10-yard dash. However, Tuipolutu seemed to make up for this in the weight room, pushing an impressive 30 bench press reps.

Tufele was not surprised by his fellow lineman’s performance.

“Marlon is a beast,” he said. “He’s always been a beast. He finally put everything together this season. Hopefully we’ll get to play together in the NFL.”

Unfortunately for the Trojans, cornerback Olaijah Griffin had to skip Pro Day due to COVID-19 protocols, per his announcement on Twitter. In a Zoom interview, Griffin said he had been looking forward to the chance to showcase his potential.

“I want to show that I have a lot of talent. Anyone that underestimated me, I want to prove them wrong. I can’t wait to put on a show,” he said.

NFL personnel also got an early look at potential 2022 first-round pick, junior quarterback Kedon Slovis, who was throwing to Vaughns and St. Brown.

USC has its most NFL hopefuls since the 2011 draft, where USC saw nine Trojans picked. Excitement is definitely in the air for the program.

“Very proud of the young men that are leaving our program and heading on to the NFL,” head coach Clay Helton said. “I know they have extremely bright futures and can’t say enough about them. Going to miss them, I know that. And looking forward to watching them play on Sundays.”

With Pro Day behind them, all eyes will be tuned to the NFL Draft which will be televised starting April 30 on NFL Network.