The USC football defensive line will need to overcome the loss of Marlon Tuipulotu in 2021. Fortunately, the unit has built up some solid depth to continue pushing forward.
Defensive line coach Vic So'oto will have another year to work with a group of players who thrived under his tutelage in Year 1. Good things should come from that.
Buy the USC defensive line to continue growing in 2021
Tuipulotu's absence will surely be felt. Fortunately, a veteran nose tackle is sitting right there ready to slot in a replacement: Brandon Pili.
While Pili isn't the reliable figure Tuipulotu managed to be, he's big, athletic and capable of causing problems in the middle. He was injured for much of the 2020 season, so this will be his chance to shine.
Since USC returns just about everyone else on the line, the unit should be stable going forward. Nick Figueroa had a breakout season last year at defensive end while Caleb Tremblay is also slated to come back for a final season at defensive tackle.
Connor Murphy is the only other loss on the line worth noting. In terms of numbers, the Trojans will get back Jacob Lichtenstein from his 2020 opt-out, so that's a gap covered. They have also added Ishmael Sopsher as a transfer, though the former Alabama lineman should compete at nose or defensive tackle.
Since Drake Jackson returns to harass tackles off the edge, the pass rush has a top-line focal point. The fact that Korey Forman, the No. 1 player in the class of 2021, is there to back him up is a cherry on top of that cake. If USC can get both of those players on the field at the same time, mayhem would ensue.
Key backup Tuli Tuipulotu should be expected to progress even more in his second season with the Trojans. Meanwhile, Dejon Benton, Kobe Pepe, Jamar Sekona and newcomer Jay Toia will be around to provide depth at worst. At best, one or two of those will emerge in much the same way Tuipulotu managed in 2020.
There's a ton of promise in a defensive front populated by Pili, Figueroa, Tremblay, Jackson, Foreman and Tuipulotu. Expect no less than the Trojans delivered upfront in 2020. Hope for even more than that.