How USC’s DL Stacks Up…

Adam Grosbard (OC Register)  —  USC has some talented pieces returning on the defensive line. One coming off a breakout freshman season and poised for a new role as a sophomore. Another after considering an early departure for the NFL. And another coming back to be a third-year starter.

The one exception is one of the defensive end positions. There, USC must replace Christian Rector, a senior captain who graduated following 2019. There is no clear answer as to who will take Rector’s job, but there are several possibilities on the roster.

Here’s a look at USC’s defensive line position entering the 2020 season:

On the roster

The headliner for this position group is sophomore Drake Jackson. But last year’s breakout star on defense will not be spending all of his time at defensive end in 2020.

Jackson has expressed confidence in being able to play linebacker, noting that he participated in seven-on-seven during the summers in high school. So as the defense rotates between three- and four-man fronts, Jackson will have a place to play.

There are other options for USC at defensive end to replace Rector. Caleb Tremblay bounced back and forth between end and tackle last season, showing flashes with two sacks as a junior. Redshirt junior Nick Figueroa could also see some time.

Redshirt senior Connor Murphy was serviceable last season when Rector was out with injury, recording five tackles and a sack in 13 games. Jacob Lichtenstein is coming back after sitting out last season due to a knee injury.

The defensive line was buoyed by the return of Jay Tufele (left) for his junior year. At 6-foot-3 and 315 pounds, Tufele can play nose tackle in a three-man front or play in a two-tackle formation. So can Marlon Tuipulotu, a junior looking to start for his third year in a row.

Then there’s redshirt freshman De’jon Benton, who did appear in four games last season, making three tackles as he gathered some experience. Another player coming off a redshirt is Stanley Ta’ufo’ou.

True freshman tackle Kobe Pepe enrolled at USC in January after graduating early from St. John Bosco. He is coming off an 80-tackle senior season at Bosco in which he was named the All-CIF Division 1 Defensive Player of the Year.

On the way

In addition to Pepe, USC signed two defensive linemen in the 2020 recruiting class. Lawndale tackle Tuli Tuipulotu, the younger brother of Marlon, is a three-star recruit who will join the Trojans when fall camp starts. So will tackle Jamar Sekona, another three-star prospect.

USC has two defensive linemen committed for the 2021 class: Four-star Grace Brethren tackle Jay Toia and three-star DeMartha (Md.) end Colin Mobley.


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John Weld
Diamond Member
June 16, 2020 7:37 pm

Statement from Mike Bohn to Season Ticket Holders: I hope this message finds you continuing to be safe and healthy. The purpose of this email is to provide you, as a season ticket holder, an update on our plans for the 2020 football season. Please know that our staff has been hard at work preparing for a multitude of different scenarios that are logistically complex. We’ve been greatly appreciative of your patience and support during this very unique time. There have been two announcements in the past couple weeks that have been extremely encouraging. First, President Carol L. Folt announced… Read more »

Diamond Member
June 17, 2020 10:04 am
Reply to  Allen Wallace

I wish Bohn the best. My guess is we are going to have a 2020 season in the SEC, the Big 10, and the Big 12. The Pac 12 and the ACC are still open to debate.

Diamond Member
June 17, 2020 10:03 am
Reply to  Allen Wallace

It is a shame that he does not have the intellectual resources made available to him to place what is happening in context. What is happening is a regular historical occurrence. One of my sons uses the “Fourth Turning” as his model (which I understand is a take off of the 100 year cycle a Russian theorist came up with in the 1930’s). It has little to do with race. Race is simple the varnish by which this occurrence is being historicitized. For those not familiar with historicism (or historicity), it is the school of thought that claims each historical… Read more »