USC Football Spring Camp 2018: Rebuilding job on defensive line

Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images
Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images /

The USC Football defensive line has a great deal of production and experience to replace in 2018, but the rebuilt unit now has the bodies to cope.

After a couple of years of renewed focus recruiting the defensive line, USC must hope that bolstered depth will be enough to plug several holes in the trenches.

On the plus side, defensive line coach Kenechi Udeze, who reportedly interviewed for a job in the NFL, will be back and in control as work begins this spring.

Here’s the skinny on the Trojan defensive line going into Spring Camp:

Roster Rundown

Departing (3):Rasheem Green, Josh Fatu, Kenny Bigelow

Returning (7):Malik Dorton, RS-Sr.Christian Rector, RS-Jr.Liam Jimmons, RS-So.Brandon Pili, So.Marlon Tuipulotu, RS-Fr.Jay Tufele, RS-Fr.Jacob Lichtenstein, RS-Fr.

Spring Enrollees (1):Caleb Tremblay, Jr.

Fall Enrollees (1):Trevor Trout, Fr.

*Returning starter

USC returns several players with starting experience, but the defensive line doesn’t actually have any regular starters coming back in 2018.

Malik Dorton sat atop the depth chart at defensive end for all of 2017, but only started three times. Marlon Tuipulotu started once before a back injury took him out for the season, then Brandon Pili stepped in and started a couple of times in place of Josh Fatu.

Christian Rector is as close to a returning starter as the Trojans have, but his four starts were in place of Porter Gustin, covering the Predator position.

With Rasheem Green and Fatu gone, there’s a ton of experience and production to replace.

USC will get a boost with four-star junior college transfer Caleb Tremblay joining the team this spring.

Four-star defensive tackle won’t be arriving until fall camp.

Biggest Battle

Tuipulotu was so polished as an early enrollee last year that he pushed Fatu for a starting job straight away. Pili was en route to redshirt, but injuries forced him into action ahead of schedule.

Now it’s tough to tell just how much of a gap may be between them.

There are a few factors to work out first. Will Tuipulotu be fully healed from the lingering back injury which sidelined him? Does Pili’s dancing-polar-bear athleticism plus the benefit of real experience elevate him to the top spot on the depth chart?

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Or might USC find a way to get both of them on the field at the same time?

Player to Watch

Tremblay arrives with expectations somewhere between Fatu and Utah transfer Stevie Tu’ikolovatu. Granted, he’s not the same type of player as those two nose tackles, but he could wind up having that kind of impact.

Tu’ikolovatu made his presence known immediately, becoming the key man on the defensive line in 2016. Fatu took a little longer to settle in, but in he second year at USC he developed into an integral figure.

TRENDING: Projecting USC’s Starting Lineup in 2018

How quickly can Tremblay integrate himself into the lineup? Spring could feature a quick start.