Cromwell Field at USC was the site of the Trojans 2021 Pro Day. With no National Football League (NFL) combine being held this year, USC’s NFL prospects had to show out at home rather than perform in Indianapolis, Indiana, where the combine normally takes place.
Seven Trojans were invited to attend and showcase their skills, but cornerback Olaijah Griffin was held out due to a positive COVID-19 test. Griffin started all six games for the Trojans in 2020, excelling in the Trojans’ new defensive scheme which left him in many man-to-man coverages collecting 22 tackles and an interception while holding opposing quarterbacks to just 38 percent of their passes being completed when targeting him.
Griffin wrote on Twitter that he believes the test result was a false positive and that he looks forward to having his own pro day on either April 5 or April 6.
Offensive lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker, wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, safety Talanoa Hufanga, defensive lineman Jay Tufele, wide receiver Tyler Vaughns, defensive lineman Marlon Tuipulotu were the six Trojans who were cleared to participate. They went to work on the morning of March 23 to showcase what they have to offer at the next level. Scouts from all 32 NFL teams were in attendance.
USC’s quarterback Kedon Slovis assisted in the pro day drills by throwing passes. Slovis will be returning under center for his junior season.
Vera-Tucker was already likely to be a first-rounder pick in the upcoming NFL draft and his performance during pro day cemented him even further. The offensive lineman showed his scary athleticism and put up 36 reps on the bench press and a 5.10 in a 40-yard dash.
“Just consistent, not only as a player but more importantly as a person – when he shows up and goes into the building you are getting the same guy everyday,” USC head coach Clay Helton said.
Helton was showing his support for all of his guys performing in front of the scouts in attendance.
St. Brown was another standout during his workouts and drills with a speedy 4.51 seconds 40-yard dash time and 20 reps on the bench press. St. Brown has shown he has big-play abilities and to also do the intangibles on the field. St. Brown’s strong showing could make him a first-round draft prospect for many teams who are looking for a reliable target.
“He does the little things – not only do you see him make the big plays down the field but he does the dirty work, he’ll dig out a safety in the run game with physicality and toughness, so you are getting an every down player in Amon-Ra that has that big-play capability also,” Helton said.
Not every Trojan was able to shine under the Southern California sun. Wide receiver Tyler Vaughns didn’t produce the kind of numbers he was hoping for, with only seven reps on the bench press and a 4.62 40-yard dash. In the 2020 NFL Combine, seven reps on the bench would have tied Vaughns for dead last, but you can’t judge a wide receiver solely on one day of workouts. Luckily, there is plenty of game film that shows how productive he can be.
“I feel like my game is better than anything that can be shown in a 40 [yard dash] or anything like that,” Vaughns said.
Vaughns thinks that football and his style of play can simply be put into context with numbers and measurements.
On the defensive side of the ball, Tufele showed all of the athleticism packed into his 6’3”, 305-pound frame. It had been a while since Tufele suited up, having opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns.
He posted 30 reps on the bench and a 4.97 40-yard dash time which is a good mark for his size. Right now it seems like teams considering Tufele in the draft are looking at him more for his size and athleticism than his skill. It would not be surprising to hear his name be called early on draft night.
Hufanga had a steller 2020 by leading the Trojans in tackles, interceptions and forced fumbles. He should be getting as much consideration and notoriety as fellow Trojans-Vera-Tucker and St. Brown, but NFL scouts have real concerns about his durability.
In 2018, Hufanga broke his collarbone. In 2019 he broke it again. Despite his injury issues Hufanga has earned several awards for his play on the field including being named to The Athletic, ESPN, USAToday, and the AP’s All-American First Team list.
In addition to concerns about Hufanga’s injury history, College football analyst and expert Jim Mora Jr.explains NFL scouts have other questions.
“The other issue is his speed. Football is a game of speed, you have to be fast…I don’t think he demonstrates that great of speed. That being said, I think there is a place for him in the NFL,” Mora said.
USC has a lot of talent on the roster and their draft prospects showed up and showed out for all 32 NFL teams, Helton knows that his guys can play at the next level.
“I appreciate the quality of player that USC continually produces and how accessible the staff is in terms of helping us do our job and promote their guys. You can tell that is echoed across the league by the fact that 32 out of 32 teams were there today,” Helton said.
Featured Image: Amon-Ra St. (March 23, 2021) Brown running the 40-yard dash during USC Pro Day at Cromwell Field in Los Angeles, California. Photo credit: Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline