The commitment of Independence (Ore.) four-star defensive tackle Marlon Tuipulotu to may be the first true statement on the recruiting trail that the Trojans are ready to dominate the Pac-12 once again.
Ranked the No. 5 defensive tackle nationally, Tuipulotu USC takes a top rated player away from another conference foe at a position of need. That is a recruiting trifecta.
At 6-foot-2, 295-pounds, Tuipulotu is a marquee interior defensive linemen USC can begin building around almost immediately. Powerful and tenacious, Tuipulotu is a space eater who can occupy blocks, while re-establishing a new line of scrimmage.
As a state wrestling champ, Tuipulotu is accustom to sprawling and maneuvering in order to win the game of leverage. Tuipulotu plays defensive end at the high school level, but his ability to stack and shed blocks in run support while moving laterally makes him a percent candidate to play as a one-technique defensive tackle.
While the commitment of Portland (Ore.) three-star Brandon Pili will help bolster the Trojans depth at this position longterm, Tuipulotu has the physicality to compete for playing time right away.
In 2017, it is anticipated that USC will run more base 3-4 fronts defensively. The Trojans lose senior Stevie Tu'ikolovatu and sophomore defensive tackle Noah Jefferson in 2017.
USC returns eight interior defensive linemen, including Kevin Scott, who was deemed academically ineligible for the Rose Bowl, and Kenny Bigelow, who is returning from his second ACL surgery.
Of those eight players, only junior Josh Fatu has taken any significant reps as a nose tackle. Sophomore Jacob Daniel also saw playing time as a one-shade defensive tackle, albeit limited.
Tuipulotu had six sacks his senior year to go along with 62 tackles, 14 being for losses. That followed a junior campaign where he has 28 tackles for losses and 13 sacks.
Expert opinion with Scout Director Of Recruiting Brandon Huffman
Unlike with other commitments USC has obtained this recruiting cycle, Marlon Tuipulotu’s announcement makes a statement for the Trojans on two fronts.
Tuipulotu’s ability to contribute to USC on the defensive line next season is an obvious asset. However, USC taking a top regional player away from a conference foe sends a message in itself.
“I think momentum shifted recruiting wise in the Pac-12 when USC beat U-Dub,” said Huffman. “They got Jack Sears the next day, or maybe even that night.
“Since then, USC has been filling key spots. Tayler Katoa, Brandon Pili… you can see the momentum building. It’s funny because Washington is Pac-12 champs, but USC beat them.
“Now those two schools are tied together on various different recruits. So USC just crippled a conference foe and took another step toward having the best defensive line class in the West.”
Washington has done well holding serve in the Northwest on many of its top targets, and although Tuipulotu is originally from Southern California, he played his entire high school football career in Oregon.
With Portland (Ore.) three-star defensive tackle Brandon Pili committing to USC last week, Huffman analyzes Tuipulotu’s potential in the Trojans 3-4 defense.
“Thing about Marlon is, he’s 295-pounds and doesn’t look it,” said Huffman. “He’s a well put together guy who is very quick off the ball.
“He could play defensive end because of that quickness. But we’re talking about Marlon and Brandon Pili, what if Jay Tufele also ends up at USC? Does Brandon Pili become an offensive guard at that point?
“Tuipulotu has a lot of versatility, though. He can play inside or outside as a 3-4 defensive end. When we saw him in Oakland, Greg Rogers was sorta the big named defensive tackle we knew about coming in — That’s who we were all talking about.
“Tufele and Tuipulotu were the two best defensive tackles we saw that day. I still think Jay Tufele should have been the MVP that day, but Marlon got it. Marlon is probably the most physically ready of that group. He has the most college-ready size.
“The thing I always worried about with Marlon is that he wasn’t just playing in Oregon, he was playing in Central Oregon. Independence is not a big city, so I was a bit skittish about the competition he was playing against.
“Well, he goes to The Opening in Oakland (Calif.) and got MVP. He then goes to The Opening Finals and makes the final five. He goes to the Army All-American Bowl and was really good as well. So he didn’t dominate just because of the competition he was going against in Oregon. Marlon is an elite defensive tackle.”
Tuipulotu’s commitment may prove to be a factor which helps draw Tuefele to USC.
“How much of a positive it will be may be overstated a bit, but I do know they’re close,” said Huffman. “Tufele is a good enough player that he's not going to be scared off by anyone anyway.
“He’s going to be the alpha dog with whatever school he signs with. I don’t think it hurts them with him, but I don’t think it’s a deal sealer either. USC still has to overcome the two in-state schools.
“Bingham has had a track record with both of those schools, so Tufele could still decide that he wants to stay home and continue that tradition.
“One thing is certain, BKU (Kenechi Udeze) has done a great job recruiting this defensive line class. If there were any questions about him coaching and recruiting the defensive line, I think he’s already answered that. He’s landed two out of state guys and is right there for at least one more.”