Offensive lineman Dylan Lopez announced Thursday that he’s headed out of state for his senior season, and becomes a third California prospect in recent days to announce a transfer to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.
Lopez, a 6-foot-3, 280-pound center, will make the move East along with high school teammate and quarterback A.J. Duffy, as well as former Vista Murrieta tight end Jack Pedersen.
Duffy announced his intention to transfer in late December and Lopez said it came up in conversation as a potential option for him as well.
“I was all about it,” Lopez said of making the move. “I was super excited to have the opportunity.”
Lopez said he and his parents made sure to do their due diligence as to whether it would be a smooth transition for him in terms of academics and athletics. He also spoke with IMG head coach Bobby Acosta.
“He’s super cool and super excited to have me over there,” Lopez said. “I’m going to learn a lot over there and compete against the best every day. Not just on the field, but in the classroom, the weight room, and being around guys who are like-minded.”
IMG has an opening at center, with last year’s starter Greg Crippen off to Michigan. Lopez said he’s aware there is an opportunity to slide into the starting lineup, but he knows what kind of roster has been built at IMG.
“I’m going there to compete and to try to earn a spot,” Lopez said. “I don’t want anything handed or given to me. The opportunity to go there is going to be just like being in college — with the nutrition, the weight room, the practices.”
IMG is already home to four-star offensive tackle Tyler Booker, the nation’s No. 35 overall prospect, and also welcomed in massive three-star tackle Aliou Bah this offseason, who holds offers from Alabama, Michigan, Texas, USC and others.
“I haven’t talked to Booker, but I know about him,” Lopez said. “I’ve spoken to a few of the offensive line guys and they’re excited to have me. I’ve seen the roster. IMG is always known to have some real dudes. Everyone there is college driven.”
It’ll be a quick transition for Lopez, who said he’ll fly out to Florida late next week, settle in at IMG and get started fairly quickly with the developmental phase in the weight room before getting into spring ball in March or April.
That’s just one transition for Lopez, however, as he’s also watched the change at USC in moving from offensive line coach Tim Drevno to new position coach Clay McGuire. Lopez said on Thursday that he has yet to speak with McGuire, but dove into some research on the new Trojans assistant as soon as he heard about the hire.
“I know he coached at Texas State and before that he was with Coach Harrell,” Lopez said. “I don’t know too much about him, but hopefully we can talk some football and I can learn about what he teaches. I’m looking forward to learning from him and building that relationship.”
He added that he is supposed to speak with USC head coach Clay Helton later on Thursday, but the strongest relationship Lopez has with USC is in the form of USC graduate assistant Viane Talamaivao. Lopez speaks with him frequently and has a strong affinity for the former Trojan lineman.
“Knowing Coach V is going to be there is big,” Lopez said. “Me and his relationship is going great. He’s awesome.”
The USC offensive line has been a constant talking point for USC fans over the past few years and Lopez has heard a bit of it.
“At the end of the season or during the season you kind of look back and see some negatives and obviously some stuff needs to be fixed or worked on, but I think that goes for every season,” Lopez said. “Looking at the positives, though, Alijah Vera-Tucker was the Morris Trophy winner and I saw Brett Neilon played pretty good, and Justin Dedich as well.”
As for USC’s 2022 class, Lopez said his commitment is still firm, citing his comfort level with Talamaivao and continuing to build relationships with Helton, offensive line coach Graham Harrell and McGuire.
“I still feel pretty confident that’s the right move for me,” Lopez said.
He’s also excited about how the 2022 class is taking shape. USC suffered a decommitment from four-star linebacker Niuafe Tuihalamaka (Mission Hills, Calif./Alemany) this past weekend, but Lopez said he and the linebacker have been speaking and he feels the Trojans still have a chance.
Lopez plans to do some recruiting for USC while out at IMG, but he sees the recent addition of five-star cornerback Domani Jackson (Santa Ana, Calif./Mater Dei) as a major building block.
“I haven’t talked too much to Domani, but him being in that class is huge for us,” Lopez said. “He’s going to be able to recruit guys and that will be big. That’s huge for us knowing he’s locked in and the potential for our class is huge. We’ll have to see where the chips fall.”