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USC All-America DL Tuli Tuipulotu declares for NFL draft

NCAA Football: California at Southern California

Nov 5, 2022; Los Angeles, California, USA; USC Trojans defensive lineman Tuli Tuipulotu (49) reacts after a play during the second quarter against the California Golden Bears at United Airlines Field at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports

Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports

LOS ANGELES - Southern California All-America defensive lineman Tuli Tuipulotu will enter the NFL draft.

Tuipulotu, who led the FBS with 13 1/2 sacks as a junior, announced his decision on social media Tuesday.

The 6-foot-4, 290 pound edge rusher had two tackles and one sack in the eighth-ranked Trojans’ 46-45 loss to Tulane in the Cotton Bowl on Monday. He finished his college career with 21 sacks and 32 tackles for loss in 32 games.

The younger brother of USC and Philadelphia Eagles defensive lineman Marlon Tuipulotu, Tuli impressed as a freshman during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season by getting two sacks and 2 1/2 tackles for loss in six games.

His last season was his best, with Tuipulotu finishing second nationally in tackles for loss with 22. The defensive equivalent to Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Caleb Williams, Tuipulotu’s disruptive play helped a flawed defense lacking talent and depth - USC allowed 29.2 points per game and 6.5 yards per play - produce timely negative plays and takeaways.

Tuipulotu received the Morris Trophy as the best defensive lineman in the Pac-12, an award voted on by players. He was also a finalist for the Bednarik and Nagurski Awards presented to the top defender in college football and the Lombardi Award for the top offensive or defensive lineman.

Led by Williams and Tuipulotu, USC finished 11-3 and played in the Pac-12 title game and a New Year’s Six bowl in coach Lincoln Riley’s first season. The Trojans were 4-8 in 2021 when Clay Helton was fired as coach after two games.