Redshirt junior defensive lineman Jay Tufele announced Wednesday morning that he is opting out of any potential football season this academic year. In a statement posted to Twitter, Tufele said he will use the time to prepare for the 2021 NFL Draft.

“I have come to the point where it is time for me to do what is best for my career and family,” he wrote.

The Salt Lake City native had 41 tackles, including 6.5 for loss, and 4.5 sacks in 2019. He was selected to the All-Pac-12 First Team and won USC’s Defensive Lineman of the Year Award for the second-straight season. Tufele recorded 65 tackles and seven sacks over two years of play. He also won the team’s Co-Defensive Service Team’s Player of the Year Award during his redshirt season in 2017.

His notable highlights both come from the 2018 season and include a 48-yard fumble return for a touchdown at Utah and a blocked field goal in the final seconds that sealed the Trojans’ upset home victory over Washington State.

Tufele is considered a top 50 prospect by both CBS Sports and the Draft Network and has a chance to be a first-round selection. ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. has Tufele as his 22nd-ranked prospect. He would have been the centerpiece of a fierce USC defensive line if the team plays a season in the spring. 

Tufele thanked his family, coaches, teammates and the school’s academic staff at the beginning of the letter.

“When I reflect on my time at USC, I think of all the memorable interactions with you all that have helped me grow,” he wrote. “USC and Los Angeles have forced me to stretch myself physically and mentally and I am forever thankful.”