USC defensive lineman Marlon Tuipulotu declares for the NFL draft

USC defensive lineman Marlon Tuipulotu celebrates after a fumble recovery.
USC defensive lineman Marlon Tuipulotu celebrates after a fumble recovery against Utah in November.
(Rick Bowmer / Associated Press)

Another key cog in USC’s defense is off to the NFL.

After establishing himself as a force on the interior of USC’s defensive line during its shortened season, Marlon Tuipulotu declared for the draft on Friday, becoming the fourth Trojan in the last week to announce that he was leaving for the NFL.

“Growing up watching the Trojan greats excel at USC made it a dream of mine to one day put on the cardinal and gold,” Tuipulotu wrote in a statement posted to social media. “That dream turned into reality 4 years ago and allowed me to meet some of the greatest people I could have ever imagined who have pushed me to become the player and person I am today.”


Tuipulotu’s exit was widely expected after a stellar season in which he tallied 23 tackles, 3½ for loss, and two sacks as the Trojans starting nose tackle. But his departure leaves a sizable hole in the middle of USC’s defensive line, one that the Trojans could have trouble replacing next season.

Olaijah Griffin announced his NFL decision in an after-midnight post on social media, which he said was in honor of his grandmother’s birthday.

Jan. 1, 2021

USC already weathered the loss of one top defensive tackle this season when Jay Tufele announced before the season that he would opt out to prepare for the draft. It was in Tufele’s absence that Tuipulotu shined, emerging more as an every-down playmaker and earning a place on the All-Pac-12 first team.

That role was solidified by new coordinator Todd Orlando’s defensive scheme, which asked more of the nose tackle position than simply to clog the middle.

“He’s being asked to be violent and run,” defensive line coach Vic So’oto said last month. “To Marlon’s credit, he’s just gone all-in, and he hasn’t looked back. He’s always asking for more and asking to get better. As a comparison last year to this year, I can’t tell much about the scheme. But I do know he’s playing with more of an anger about him on the field.”

That six-game impression this season likely served him well as far as his draft position. The junior nose tackle is seen by most draft prognosticators as a likely pick in the top few rounds, a position that might not have been assured before his standout season.

USC safety Talanoa Hufanga, the Pac-12 defensive player of the year, announces he’ll go to the NFL. He was the Trojans’ first All-American since 2017.

Dec. 30, 2020

Tuipulotu becomes the third key Trojan starter on defense to declare this week, following his cousin, safety Talanoa Hufanga, and cornerback Olaijah Griffin, who announced on social media shortly after midnight Friday.


The Trojans will return another Tuipulotu to their defensive line next season, as Marlon’s younger brother, Tuli, is expected to play a major role on the defensive front.