When the Trojans signed the class of 2017 there was a lot of excitement about the trio of Polynesian defensive tackles that were part of the class with Marlon Tuipulotu, Jay Tufele and Brandon Pili.
During the 2017 season we saw Tuipulotu and Pili in action and both delivered on the promise with bright futures ahead. Tufele, on the other hand, redshirted even though there was a week in November when depth was low and Clay Helton said he was close to burning it.
Tufele (who weighs in at 315 pounds right now) came into spring ball as a lead reserve at both defensive end and nose tackle, and he’s ended up spending more time at nose behind Pili as Tuipulotu sits out spring rehabbing his back. Based on what we’ve seen far Jay looks ready to take his place in that group as another wide body in the middle of the line.
“Jay brings a great spirit to what he does, him and Brandon (Pili), they are just amazing to work with,” USC defensive line coach Kenechi Udeze said. “Jay can slide up and down the line based on who we’re playing. If it’s a run-heavy team we have the luxury of Jay playing three-technique or nose. It’s all about having the best guys on the field at the right time.”
For Tufele, it’s not about where he plays, it’s the opportunity to get on the field after spending last fall as a redshirt and working hard in the weight room to be ready.
“This off-season was humbling. Some days were tough but coach Ivan (Lewis) kept working with me, slowly but surely, and I feel like it’s paid off. I took redshirting as a learning experience, getting a chance to watch the older guys, how they do their drills, how they approach their work, and do what they do. Hopefully when it’s my turn to get a chance to play on Saturdays I will be ready.”
One of the reasons he’s excited to get out there is to join with Tuipulotu and Pili, to live out the dreams they had when they were recruited.
“It inspires me so much, that’s our dream to all be out there together as brothers, so just gotta keep working hard so I can get out there. I know I haven’t reached my potential yet so I have to keep improving on everything I do.”
Tufele experienced another dream of all defensive linemen at the end of the Thursday practice when Porter Gustin tipped a pass that landed in Jay’s arms and he rambled the length of the field for a pick-six touchdown.