Weston (Fla.) defensive end Jacob Lichtenstein committed to USC Tuesday over scholarship offers from 33 other schools.
The majority of his scholarship offers from major schools came this spring when college coaches defended upon Cypress bay High School to watch Lichtenstein work out in person.
Alabama offensive line coach Mario Cristobal offered Lichtenstein a scholarship after his visit to Cypress Bay, as did USC defensive line coach Kenechi Udeze.
The Trojans are relatively young on the interior defensive line and only lose nose tackle Stevie Tui’Kolovatu in 2017. At the defensive end spot Lichtenstein is projected to play, sophomore Rasheem Green, redshirt sophomore Malik Dorton, redshirt freshman Christian Rector and freshman Liam Jimmons have all occupied that role at one time or another this offseason.
With USC actively recruiting approximately 30 defensive linemen in the 2017 class, the Trojans are aiming to sign a class of four commits. USC currently has the commitment of Los Angeles (Calif.) four-star defensive end Hunter Echols.
[Related Story: Hunter Echols Future Impact]
Lichtenstein is a player whose best football is years ahead of him. At 6-foot-5, 245-pounds, he is a defensive end in the mold of Christian Rector and Liam Jimmons.
Both Rector and Jimmons played high school football at 260-pounds before hitting the training table at USC. Now 280-pounds each, it’s evident the USC coaching staff is willing to project and invest in the development of a player like Lichtenstein.
Rector and Jimmons are not the only precedent for patience at USC. Ironically, or perhaps notably, Lichtenstein also has a few things in common with former USC defensive tackle Leonard Williams. Like the mentioned defensive linemen, Williams graduated from Daytona Beach (Fla.) Mainland at 255-pounds.
And while Ed Orgeron is given credit for Williams recruitment and development, USC administrative assistant Keynodo Hudson coached Williams at Mainland High School. Hudson was also key in recruiting Lichtenstein.
So while every college is looking for a plug and play 300-pound three-technique right out of high school, USC now has a record of developing slighter defensive ends and making them into productive interior pass rushers.
Cypress Bay plays against decent talent, but it’s not the football factory St. Thomas Aquinas, American Heritage, Dillard or even Mainland are. Lichtenstein’s 6-foot-5 frame has yet to see a real off season weight and nutrition program.
Lichtenstein occasionally plays as a five-technique defensive end for Cypress Bay, but he is predominantly a 4i-technique for the Lightning. That is, he plays a shade over the offensive tackle toward his inside shoulder. USC actually used Claude Pelon last season in their 3-4 defensive as a 4i-technique.
Lichtenstein is an aggressive defensive end who racks up tackles for losses with plenty of inside slant moves. Lichtenstein is rarely describe as quick, but he is athletic enough to slip by a lot of blocks untouched. He also runs down plays well away from his gap assignment.
Lichtenstein is a big, naturally strong defender at the point of contact, which overshadows his athletic ability to some extent. Because he can drive pass blockers back on their heels with sheer force, his ability to shed those blocks and make plays outside his gap aren’t highlighted enough.
Make no mistake, Lichtenstein is a brute, but his first instinct is to slip past a blower rather that first fight him and body catch the ball carrier. Having said that, any profile based comparisons with a player line Porter Gustin should been quelled. Lichtenstein’s athleticism is underrated, but he is not a hybrid pass rusher that’s going to drop back in pass coverage or play off the line of scrimmage.
Expert Opinion with Scout Florida Analyst Corey Bender
While Lichtenstein’s current size suggests that he will patrol the edge of the Trojans defense, Corey Bender also sees the three-star defensive end being a far from finished product.
“Long term I see him as a down lineman,” said Bender. “He’s really more off a five-technique right now, but the way you see him shooting into the offensive backfield, he plays like a three-technique defensive tackle.
“When he’s at his most athletic, he’s going north and south. His straight line speed is good, especially on his backside pursuit, but as far as changing direction goes, I don’t see him being a stand up hybrid-type at all.
“I’ve seen him play quite a bit in person, but he’s not a quick twitch-explosive guy. He’s more of a high effort guy that will hit you. He’s a ‘Yes sir, no sir’ type player that will be a great locker room guy. He’s going to bring it every day and you’re never going to have to worry about his motor.”
With so many scholarship offers coming just two month ago, Lichtenstein’s recruitment is a tail of upside and questions marks. While he had 33 scholarship offers, including those from Alabama, Nebraska, South Carolina, Arkansas, Mississippi State, Missouri and others, he was not heavily recruited by Miami, Florida or Florida State.
“I like him, but I’m not crazy about him either,” said Bender. “I think for Miami and Florida State, it’s a numbers game. They simply have some guys on their board they like better.
“Miami is filling up pretty quick, and Florida State is turning away some guys Auburn, Alabama and some other SEC schools would take. I think the Florida schools just had players they liked much better early on.”
Tampa (Fla.) Plant USC commit Juwan Burgess started receiving interest from colleges his freshman year of high school. At the other end of the spectrum, Lichtenstein’s recruitment didn’t really take off until last April.
“When Jake went to the Miami Regional Opening, he had some mid-major offers — like 10 or 12,” said Bender. “West Virginia was his big offer at the time. By spring, it seemed like he was getting a new offer every other day.
“He had an offseason to remember, lets put it that way. His junior film went out and going to The Opening was where a lot of people saw him for the first time. He impressed a lot of people at his spring practices as well. Seeing his passion for the game and his size got a lot of college coaches interested.
“He’s a guy that’s a legit 6-foot-5 and he weighed in the other day at 247-pounds. So he’s not one of those high school kids exaggerating his height and weight. Colleges saw that he had legit size and went on him. But I don’t think we’ll know what type of player he’ll be until two years down the line.”
Having said that, is USC reaching 3,000 miles away for a player they may be able to sign locally?
“I don’t think USC is reaching, but you are going to have to be patient with him,” said Bender. “If you want him to come in and crack the depth chart right away, then maybe, but I think USC is really recruiting him for who he’ll be two years from now.
“I think his offers speak for themselves. I don’t know about the situation with Alabama and that offer, but I know 90-percent of the other schools that were recruiting him would take him today. There were a lot of mid-majors on his offer list, so USC obviously stands out as one of his bigger offers. But again, I don’t think that makes him a reach.”