With Signing Day 2017 approaching, USC football has some major needs to fill on an already perilously-thin defensive line.
Ask any rabid USC fan about recruiting needs in 2017 and they will tell you the same thing:
Number 1: Defensive line. Followed by defensive line and for good measure, defensive line.
And you know what? They would be right.
Although the Trojans have other needs as well—such as the offensive line—the D-line sticks out like a bruised and bloody thumb.
This is especially true of the interior members of this unit where graduation and transfers will deplete an already thin roster in 2017.
For USC, success in the upcoming year and beyond will depend on replenishing this portion of the defense and the sooner, the better.
The good news is that the weak and strong-side defensive end position is in good shape so this article will look primarily at the nose and tackle positions.
Here is a look at the 2016 USC interior defensive line:
Of the seven players listed above, two — Tu’kolovatu and Jefferson — are definitely gone after this year while Bigelow once again tries to return from yet another knee injury.
Oh, and for good measure, Kevin Scott was just recently declared academically ineligible for the Rose Bowl.
This leaves four returning interior linemen—most of which have limited game experience.
To address the woeful lack of available bodies in 2017, the Trojans have cast their recruiting nets far and wide this year.
As of this writing, USC has received verbal commitments from four-star Hunter Echols and three-stars Jacob Lichtenstein and Terrence Lang.
However, the above-mentioned players are all listed as defensive ends.
So, what does the recruiting forecast for the interior line look like for the 2017 class?
The following list is a compilation of offers and interest for defensive tackles, per 247Sports:
Interest Level/Visit Date:
Of those listed, Tagovailoa and Pili seem to be the most likely to don the cardinal and gold for the 2017 season but keep an eye on Tufele as well.
Another target — Aubrey Solomon — surprised the Trojans with an unexpected visit request and while his signing appears to be a longshot, don’t discount what the Southern California climate and a hot USC program could mean to the Georgia native come Signing Day.
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Barring a fortunate transfer — as was the case with Stevie Tu’ikolovatu this year — USC will continue to need replenishing in the interior even if they sign every player they could be reasonably expected to bring in this cycle.
On the plus side, an amazing comeback in this year’s Rose Bowl could go a long way to providing an impetus for surprises in this recruiting class.
Either way, defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast can only keep his fingers crossed for the strength of what will continue to be an area of need for 2017 and beyond.