Tuli Tuipulotu’s NFL draft decision turns up the heat on Lincoln Riley to get portal replacements

Whether you think Alex Grinch should be fired, or should get one more season to prove himself at USC, this much is clear: The Trojans need better defensive players than what they had in 2022. If the talent and depth do not improve on defense, we’re going to see a season much like what we saw the past four months. USC will score a ton of points, but it will blow 14-point leads and let some games slip through its fingers. It doesn’t matter who is coaching this defense if the talent upgrade the Trojans need does not, in fact, materialize.

Now USC is without another quality defensive player.

Tuli Tuipulotu’s expected decision to enter the 2023 NFL draft leaves the Men of Troy without two of their best defensive players for the coming season, their last in the Pac-12. Mekhi Blackmon left, and now Tuipulotu is gone. Both players were anchors for the defense. More precisely, they were pillars of their position groups: Blackmon in the secondary, Tuipulotu on the defensive line. These weren’t “supporting cast” players, but central players. Now USC will lack both their on-field production and their leadership in the locker room and on the practice field.

The need to load up in the transfer portal becomes that much more acute.

One note to emphasize is that with the portal addition of Mason Cobb and the recruitment of Tackett Curtis, USC’s linebacker room might actually be decent … but with the Blackmon and Tuipulotu departures, the secondary and defensive line are clearly not where they need to be. The portal has to beef up this roster for whoever coaches this defense in 2023, whether that’s Alex Grinch or someone else.

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Lincoln Riley's loyalty to Alex Grinch can't exceed his loyalty to Caleb Williams and the USC offense

Story originally appeared on Trojans Wire