Among the USC Trojans’ group of top signees, perhaps the most important was defensive tackle Jay Tufele. A product of Bingham High School in South Jordan, Utah, Tufele was expected to become a Trojan on signing day and these expectations luckily came to fruition. Rated as the 41st best player in the nation according to the 247 Sports player rankings, Tufele is an instant impact player who fills a huge need on the defensive line for SC.
Listed at 6’3” 297 lbs., Tufele has the size and athleticism to play either nose tackle or defensive tackle for USC. He does seem to be a little smaller than those measurables would indicate, but he is so fast and strong that it does not limit him. Similar to fellow USC signee Marlon Tuipulotu, Tufele has a well-rounded skillset that will allow him to compete for playing time at multiple spots next fall.
Tufele is not the perfect defensive line prospect, but his aggressive mentality makes up for his physical limitations. From watching Tufele play, he appears to be slightly undersized at this stage in his development. However, he plays much bigger than his listed weight, often taking on double and triple teams with no issue at the high school level. Tufele will need to put on more good weight at SC especially if the Trojans want him to play nose, but his non-stop motor and bulldog mentality will ensure that he will not be spending much time on the sidelines.
Tufele has a similar body size to former starter Stevie Tu’ikolovatu, but he may not play nose for the Trojans. Tufele is much closer to 6’0” than 6’3” similar to Stevie T, and as he develops he could also begin to hit 320-325 pounds. That being said, Tufele could also stick at defensive tackle. He has a quick first step and excellent strength to overwhelm larger offensive lineman regardless of where he lines up. As he continues to develop his body and overall technique, Tufele should continue to excel in these vital areas as he blossoms into a star for the Trojans.
As important as Tuipulotu’s commitment was for USC, Tufele’s may be even more vital. The Army All-American is a similar player, but his relentless motor is a rare trait that only adds to his already advanced set of physical traits. Going forward, it is difficult to predict where Tufele ends up along the defensive line. He has what it takes to play all three hand in the dirt positions, but in all likelihood, he will probably stick at either defensive tackle or nose tackle.
As of now, Rasheem Green is penciled in as the starter at defensive tackle but the nose position is entirely up for grabs. Green will need to be spelled at times, so regardless of whether or not Tufele sticks at either position there will be plenty of playing time for him to earn. Attempting to predict where he will play may depend on how advanced Brandon Pili is once he gets on campus.
Pili is almost the prototype nose tackle and if he is ready to step in and earn meaningful snaps, there will not be any need for Tufele in the middle. In that situation, Tufele would then likely battle with Tuipulotu for the backup spot behind Green. In a slightly less likely scenario, one of Tufele and Tuipulotu could also shift over to defensive end. However, that adjustment is probably dependent on the development of Christian Rector, Liam Jimmons, and Connor Murphy.
No matter which position Tufele plays, he should be able to make an impact as a freshman. This recruiting cycle, the defensive tackle position was slightly weaker than the past two seasons, but Tufele was still the number three player in the nation at that spot. His speed, strength, and motor are close to elite and USC would need almost every returning player to take multiple steps forward in order to redshirt the Army All-American. At this point, that seems highly unlikely meaning that Tufele’s reign of terror on the Pac-12 should begin next fall.