USC received the commitment of Fort Lauderdale defensive end Jacob Lichtenstein. Although he is only listed as a high three star recruit according to 247 sports, Lichtenstein has excellent physical and mental tools that helped him garner nearly 40 offers from some of the biggest college football powerhouses in the nation. At a solid 6’5" 248 lbs., Lichtenstein has an excellent physical frame that could see him employed at multiple spots along the defensive line in Clancy Pendergast’s 5-2 defense.
Lichtenstein’s best attribute is his strength. Although he is still relatively thin for his height and will need to add size on to his frame, Lichtenstein is able to use his strength and long arms to manhandle opposing offensive lineman. In pass rushing situations, Lichtenstein often reverts to simply pushing the offensive tackle into the backfield, causing the pocket to collapse. He is not particularly fast and does not show the ability to beat tackles around the edge, but his upper body strength and very long arms allow him to easily move lineman out of the way. In run defense, his strength is even more effective where he can easily shed blocks and take down ball carriers in the backfield.
Lichtenstein is an excellent run defender thanks to his strength, underrated quickness, and play recognition skills. For a player who is not particularly fast and mainly relies on strength in order to make plays, Lichtenstein is much quicker than many would expect. His first step is very fast and it allows him to shoot the B gap between the tackle and the guard. Lichtenstein regularly faces double teams at the high school level, but his quickness to split the gap and strength to shed the blocks allows him to consistently make plays in the backfield.
In addition to his physical attributes, Lichtenstein also has great play recognition that is particularly effective when diagnosing zone read plays. As a defensive end, his decision to either set the edge or pursue the running back usually determines the outcome of the play. Lichtenstein does a fantastic job of identifying who is carrying the football, preventing him from being left "chasing ghosts" when the quarterback decides to keep the ball and exploit the space left vacated by the defensive end. Lichtenstein’s combination of physical and mental attributes give him a very solid base that should see him become a fantastic run defender for the Trojans.
Lichtenstein’s size gives the USC coaching staff a number of position options for the young lineman. Although slightly less muscular at this stage of his career, Lichtenstein’s frame and skillset is similar to that of current Trojan Porter Gustin. In the 5-2 defense, Gustin operates as the predator linebacker whose primary responsibility is to rush the quarterback. While Lichtenstein has the physical traits to become effective in this area, he is currently more effective, and has more upside, as a run defender. This would see him slot in as the defensive end where he is responsible for the B gap. Lichtenstein has already shown the proficiency to dominate the space between the tackle and the guard, and as he adds more muscle in a college weight program, his dominance should translate well to the college game.
Despite Lichtenstein’s impressive showings in high school, if he is to play the defensive end spot in the 5-2, he will likely need to add about 25-30 pounds of muscle before he can become a significant contributor. The most likely starter at that position as of now is Malik Dorton who weighs in at 280 lbs. As a redshirt sophomore, he will likely spend at least another year or two on campus, thus limiting the potential starting opportunities for Lichtenstein in the short term. However, Dorton has not logged much experience in the past and is a relative unknown heading into the 2016 season. If everything goes according to plan, Dorton would be the starter for the next two to three seasons before handing the job to Lichtenstein, but if the young lineman can quickly add weight, he has the talent to really push Dorton for the starting spot.
Lichtenstein may not be highly regarded among fans thanks to his low rankings on many recruiting sites, but his 38 reported offers is a much better representation of his talent level. In addition, Lichtenstein sports a 4.0 GPA and made the decision to attend USC largely because of Southern Cal’s fantastic academic status. USC has created a fantastic pipeline out of South Florida that has seen top players such as Leonard Williams and Nelson Agholor. Lichtenstein is not as highly regarded coming out of high school as those two were, but he has the potential to be another very good Trojan from the Sunshine state.
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