Only 14 Power Five defensive linemen have more stops through three weeks than USC’s Tuli Tuipulotu. (Tracked by Pro Football Focus, stops are tackles that constitute a “failure” for the offense.) The versatile Trojan defender has posted 70-plus grades from PFF in each of his first three appearances.

USC has a constant on the defensive line. He can play anywhere, he can do anything, and he’s always going to be around the football.

As the Trojans have jumped out to a 3-0 start, there have been some concerns over the defense’s play, but those don’t apply to Tuipulotu. He already has six tackles for loss and three sacks, both of which trail only Washington State’s Daiyan Henley for the Pac-12 lead.

USC head coach Lincoln Riley said this week their ability to move him all over the line makes it tough for opposing offenses to really hone in on taking him away. Riley has been excited about what the third-year defender could be ever since spring, but he saw a player in fall camp that could be a major force in USC’s possible title run.

“I thought he was very good in spring. I thought fall camp, his game, he had a couple days out here where he was just outright dominant and we couldn’t block him,” Riley said. “I thought he got a lot better physically throughout the summer.

“The impressive thing is you see some guys who have made a few plays in their career, alright, they practice hard for a little bit, they’re doing well, they have a couple good days and then one day they don’t quite show up. I felt like in camp we noticed his presence every day, which is tough to do. … His consistency of making an impact was impressive, and then obviously the other thing that’s very impressive is his ability to play inside and outside — not just mentally but physically transition between both. There’s some things that are the same but there’s a lot that’s different there, too. It’s pretty impressive what he’s doing.”

USC needs to him to continue, but Tuipulotu and that defensive line have the makings of something that can be a positive for USC this year. Solomon Byrd has three sacks already. Rush end Korey Foreman is the top-graded Trojan defender so far this year, per PFF.

That group, with Tuipulotu at the forefront, is hungry.

“When our offense is doing good, we’ve got to do good also and just build on that, not let our foot off the gas,” he said.

Kickoff between the seventh-ranked Trojans and Oregon State Beavers is set for 6:30 p.m. PT on the Pac-12 Network this Saturday.