BROCK AND SALK

Huard: Standout USC DL Tuli Tuipulotu fits Seahawks’ scheme

Apr 1, 2023, 10:22 AM | Updated: Apr 6, 2023, 2:20 pm

Seahawks Draft Profile Tuli Tuipulotu...

USC DL Tuli Tuipulotu was a first-team All-American in 2022. (AP Photo/John McCoy, File)

(AP Photo/John McCoy, File)

The Seahawks have completely overhauled their defensive line this offseason, and they figure to add more pieces to that unit in this month’s NFL Draft.

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Seattle released Al Woods, Quinton Jefferson and Shelby Harris while L.J. Collier signed with the Arizona Cardinals and Poona Ford is still a free agent. In terms of additions, the Hawks signed D-lineman Dre’Mont Jones to a lucractive three-year deal and reunited with former Seattle standout Jarran Reed, who was released after 2020.

If the Seahawks are going to address the defensive line during the upcoming draft, former NFL quarterback Brock Huard has an intriguing name to keep an eye on out here on the West Coast.

“No. 17 on my top-20 list, we have defensive lineman Tuli Tuipulotu,” Huard said during Friday’s Brock and Salk on Seattle Sports.

Huard, a college football analyst for FOX Sports who calls games during the season, is going through 20 draft prospects leading up to the draft that he’d like for the Seahawks to consider picking.

Tuipulotu is a standout defensive lineman from USC who Huard saw up close a few times while calling Trojans games for FOX.

So what should we know about Tuipulotu?

“One of the first things that comes up is he could play in a 3-4 and a 4-3, which kind of fits (the Seahawks),” Huard said.

Something else? Because he went to USC, Huard figures that Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll, a former USC head coach, knows all about Tuipulotu.

“(Carroll has) still got a lot of eyes, a lot of feet on the ground down there in Southern California and knows that territory and those prospects very, very well,” Huard said.

Tuipulotu’s listed weight at USC was 290 pounds, but at the recent NFL Scouting Combine, he measured in at 266. That causes Huard to view him as a “tweener.”

“This is not the fifth pick, this is not the 20th pick, this is probably not the 37th pick … To me, Tuli is probably a third-round pick because he’s a tweener,” he said.

With his size, Tuipulotu is probably a 3-4 defensive end rather than a nose tackle or outside linebacker coming off the edge, Huard said.

“This is a guy who last season was a first-team All-American. If you want production, (he had) production off the charts,” Huard said. “He led the country in sacks with 13.5, was second in the country and tackles for loss with 22. The season before, he was first-team all-conference, he led USC in sacks, fought through injuries.”

Prior to calling games for FOX, Huard gets to chat with coaches and players. While talking to USC defensive coordinator Alex Grinch, Huard got an inside look at how highly Tuipulotu was viewed in that program.

“(Grinch) flipped his Zoom (screen) around to the practice tape … and he’s like, ‘Look at this,’ and he circles Tuli (and said), ‘Look at Tuli here. He’s out here coaching our scout team. So not only does he give us every rep at every position and everything we want on the practice field during the defensive reps, then when the scout guys are out there and the younger guys are out there, he is actually coaching them. He’s coaching the younger guys up,'” Huard recalled. “That is what I want. I want an influencer. I want somebody who loves ball. And that’s not just what I want, that’s what (Seahawks general manager) John Schneider wants as well.

“Does this guy just love the game? Does he love to play? And then does he have a skill set that if he gets a one-on-one, can he defeat the guy in front of him? As his sack totals went up, as his tackles for loss went up, you know what happens? Here comes the slide, here comes the chip, here comes the help. So in certain games, he disappeared at times because a lot of resources went to stopping him. When he had one-on-one situations, the tape was pretty dominant.”

Despite the elite production and apparent stellar reputation as a teammate, Huard shared what he sees as a red flag with Tuipulotu during the pre-draft process.

“He didn’t compete at the combine (despite being healthy). He weighed in and he was lighter than he’s been because I’m sure he wanted to be more athletic, maybe wanted to get on that stage and show that ‘I can be an edge rusher and not just a 285-pound space heater inside.’ Then run and jump. Go compete. He didn’t do it,” Huard said. “At the USC pro day a week ago, I was trying to dig up numbers (and he) didn’t run, didn’t jump. I don’t like that … To me, you’re hiding something.”

Had Tuipulotu put up impressive numbers at the combine or even USC’s pro day, Huard thinks he could have been a second-round pick. Instead, he did some position drills and agility testing, but didn’t run the 40-yard dash and other key drills.

“But because you duck from those circumstances and those settings, you leave some questions in people’s minds, and that’s why as much as I love the coaching, as much it I love the teaching, as much as I love the tape, I need to see a little bit more,” Huard said. “But he’s an intriguing prospect that can play 4-3 and 3-4, fits into this scheme in a one-on-one situation.”

Brock’s previous Draft Profiles

• Small but dangerous Kansas State RB Deuce Vaughn
• The massive ‘man eater’ Baylor nose tackle
• The late-round ‘monster’ Wisconsin LB the Seahawks should draft

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Huard: Standout USC DL Tuli Tuipulotu fits Seahawks’ scheme