USC defensive tackle Marlon Tuipulotu has declared for the 2021 NFL Draft, as the standout defender becomes the latest Trojan to announce his decision to leave school early.
The 6-foot-3, 305-pound Tuipulotu was asked to step up and man the middle of the defensive line this season and he responded extremely well, pacing the Trojans on that side of the ball through the first two games of the season.
Tuipulotu finished the 2020 season with 23 tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble. The tackle number was the most for any USC defensive lineman.
Tuipulotu finishes his USC career with 104 tackles, 8.5 sacks, three pass deflections and two forced fumbles.
Losing both Tuipulotu and Jay Tufele early to the 2021 NFL Draft is a huge blow to the USC defensive line. The Trojans added Alabama defensive tackle transfer Ishmael Sopsher last month and all eyes will be on him this spring to see if he can be a ready-made replacement in the middle of the defensive line.
If not, the Trojans will need some young players to step up there, potentially including Stanley Ta’ufo’ou, De’jon Benton, Kobe Pepe, Jamar Sekona and early enrollee true freshman Jay Toia. USC found some answers at the two positions flanking Tuipulotu, as younger brother Tuli Tuipulotu and Nick Figueroa had terrific seasons. But defensive line coach Vic So’oto will face a challenge in trying to find answers up front without those veterans in the middle.
Tuipulotu now joins Tufele, as well as safety Talanoa Hufanga, cornerback Olaijah Griffin and offensive tackle Alijah Vera-Tucker in declaring early for the upcoming draft. Not all have been surprising, but each of the five has made the hill to climb next season a little bit tougher. Now, especially on the defensive side, finding answers at all of these open spots will not come easily.