College football fans across the country anticipated Jay Tufele answering a consequential question on National Signing Day: Did the five-star want to leave his home state to play for a more heralded program? Yes, he did: Tufele announced on Wednesday that he will sign with USC.
The Bingham (Utah) High product was courted by programs around the country, but in late December he released a list of five finalists: Utah, BYU, Michigan, Ohio State and the Trojans. The Utes were thought to be in strong position for Tufele late in the recruiting cycle, but USC seemed to have made up ground after hosting Tufele for an official visit last month and flipping one of his friends, Central (Ore.) High four-star defensive tackle Marlon Tuipulotu, from Washington. Tufele’s final official visit, the weekend before signing day, was to Utah.
Although the two Big Ten East heavyweights on Tufele’s list continued to pursue him as signing day neared, the Utes and USC were perceived as the top two contenders entering Wednesday.
Ultimately Tufele decided to head to Los Angeles. His addition is a massive win for the Trojans, as Tufele projects as a big-impact run defender with top-end athleticism for his size and position who can get into the backfield to pressure opposing quarterbacks. Scout.com rates him as the No. 3 defensive tackle, the No. 1 prospect in the Beehive State and No. 36 prospect overall in the class of 2017. As a senior at Bingham, Tufele recorded 57 tackles and 10.5 sacks, and he drew positive reviews for his performance at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in January.
Tufele and Tuipulotu may be pressed into action right away. With USC losing Stevie Tu'ikolovatu to graduation and Noah Jefferson to transfer this off-season, defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast could plug in either of the Trojans' shiny new toys up front and reasonably expect good results. Either way, the duo should develop into a nuisance for opposing Pac-12 offensive linemen by the end of their college careers.
Tufele's choice adds to a scorching run to the recruiting finish line for USC. Late last month, the Trojans flipped Tuipulotu, and they followed up four days later by securing a commitment from Mountain Pointe High four-star safety Isaiah Pola-Mao. On signing day the Trojans landed Westlake (Texas) four-star linebacker Levi Jones and North Canyon (Ariz.) High five-star offensive tackle Austin Jackson, and they're considered major contenders for Augustus F. Hawkins (Calif.) High five-star wide receiver Joseph Lewis, Inderkum (Calif.) High four-star tight end Josh Falo and four-star athlete Greg Johnson, Lewis's teammate at Augustus F. Hawkins.
Tufele is one of three five-star players at his position to announce their decisions on signing day: Lee County (Ga.) High’s Aubrey Solomon, the No. 2 DT in the country, picked Michigan and Episcopal (Tex.) High’s Marvin Wilson, the No. 1 DT in the country, will reveal his choice later on Wednesday.
Here is Scout.com’s complete scouting report on Tufele:
Tufele is the top player in Utah this year and is part of what looks like an incredibly deep year for defensive tackles. Tufele is a relentless player with a non-stop motor. On film you'll see him taking on a triple-team block and still holding his ground. He might be the quickest of the defensive tackles and is able to get in the backfield and finish off a play. His first few steps are a blur and he's able to run down backs from behind. He pursues laterally extremely well and his upside is off the charts.