What began as a simple FaceTime with his quarterback this past Thursday turned into something much more for 2022 offensive lineman Dylan Lopez (Moreno Valley, Calif./Rancho Verde).
Lopez said he was talking with 2022 quarterback AJ Duffy on the phone when suddenly USC offensive coordinator Graham Harrell and offensive line coach Tim Drevno were conferenced in.
“That surprised me a bit,” Lopez said. “It was crazy.”
It got a little crazier for Lopez with what Drevno said next.
“Coach Drevno told me he’d be really excited to have me as part of their 2022 class,” Lopez said. “It was so crazy. I was just talking to AJ about the season and what he’s been doing about these circumstances. I was still in shock. After I hung up, that’s when it hit me, once I told my parents.”
The 6-foot-3, 260-pound lineman hadn’t talked to any of the USC coaches to that point, but Rancho Verde head coach Pete Duffy had been in contact with the Trojan coaches and assured Lopez that they’d seen his film and were impressed. Lopez said Drevno echoed that sentiment. He said both Harrell and Drevno told him they were really impressed when they watched his film.
Lopez said he is a long ways away from making a college decision, but it’s easy to see the effect the USC offer had on him. It was the second one Lopez has collected recently, after Syracuse offered recently. Arizona State, Northwestern and Oregon State are a few other schools that have been in contact, and after the offer from the Trojans, it wouldn’t be surprising to see more offers start rolling in.
USC has recruited a lot of offensive tackle bodies along the line over the past several classes, and head coach Clay Helton has mentioned several times that he likes the athleticism and versatility those guys bring in their ability to play multiple spots along the line. Lopez checks off that versatility box, but likely from the inside out.
Though he’s played some tackle – a couple games last season – he sees himself as a center, and believes that’s where he’ll play at the next level, though the USC coaches didn’t specify a position when they spoke this week.
As for what stands out about his game, Lopez said, “I’m athletic and I’m good with my hands and feet. I think I’m really physical.”
The Trojans have a few centers on the roster now, but starter Brett Neilon would be off the roster by the time Lopez enrolled and Justin Dedich would be in his final year. Redshirt freshman Gino Quinones is the other center on the roster right now.
While plenty of high school tackles and guards convert to center at the college level, Lopez sees an advantage in playing the position now, considering he’ll have that experience and should be well ahead of the learning curve.
Rancho Verde isn’t a school that has produced a ton of USC players in recent years, but there is one person who stands out when those two schools are brought up: Dallas Cowboys and former Trojan offensive tackle Tyron Smith.
“I’m a Cowboy fan, so that’s when I first started watching him,” Lopez said. “I got to Rancho Verde and that’s when I realized he went to the school. I got to see him when he’s come down for a youth camp. I helped work it and got to meet him. He’s really cool. He’s a freak of nature. He doesn’t look like an offensive lineman. He looks like a bodybuilder.”
Lopez also grew up a fan of USC. He said he’s been around the campus and gone to spring games. But even with that connection, he’s in no hurry to rush through the recruiting process and has no timeline for when he wants to make any decisions.
“I want to get to know Coach Harrell and Coach Drevno and talk about what their plan is for me,” Lopez said. “I want to talk football because I want to be able to to learn from the coaches and get to know them.”
USC has been able to impress Lopez recently, as he took note of offensive lineman Austin Jackson being drafted in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft, and he’s also taken note of the positive momentum the Trojans have in the 2021 recruiting class.
“I see what they’ve been doing,” Lopez said of the Trojans climbing well into the top-ten recruiting classes in the country. “It’s impressive.”