NFL Draft

2021 NFL Draft Player Profiles: USC S Talanoa Hufanga

From now until the 2021 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to showcase as many prospects as possible and examine both their strengths and weaknesses. Most of these profiles will feature individuals that the Pittsburgh Steelers are likely to have an interest in, while a few others will be top-ranked players. If there is a player you would like us to analyze, let us know in the comments below.

#15 Talanoa Hufanga / S USC – 6010 215

The Good

  • Solid in Zone coverage
  • Good awareness on screens and throws to the flat
  • Good COD to close on the ball in Zone coverage
  • Used to blitz inside and occasionally on the edge
  • Solid use of hands taking on blockers on the edge
  • Solid mental processing versus the run as a dimebacker

The Bad

  • Adequate range from the single high safety position
  • Marginal awareness of route combinations
  • Poor in Man coverage; very grabby
  • Adequate breaking down from deep and angles to the outside
  • Marginal reading the mesh point
  • Lacked physicality overall especially earlier in the year


  • Career – 203 tackles, 129 solo, 16.5 TFL, 6.5 sacks, 4 INT for 90 yards, 8 PBU, 4 FF
  • 2020 – 62 tackles, 40 solo, 5.5 TFL, 3 sacks, 4 INT for 90 yards, 1 PBU, 2 FF
  • 2020 First team All PAC12
  • 2020 – Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year
  • 2020 led PAC12 in interceptions
  • 24 games, 21 starts
  • Also played basketball in high school
  • Brother, T.J., was a linebacker at Oregon State in 2013 and 2014. His cousins are USC defensive linemen Marlon and Tuli Tuipulotu.
  • He is a communication major at USC

Tape Breakdown

Talanoa Hufanga definitely knows how to fill up a stat sheet. He was credited with double digit tackles 11 times in his career. He was used in a variety of ways including as a deep safety, box safety, and dimebacker and to cover tight ends in the slot.

Against the pass, when playing deep he has solid range from a split safety look and in Cover 3 as the middle defender. He is solid reading the quarterbacks eyes and flows with the play. He showed solid awareness to jump crossing routes underneath.  He was solid in Zone coverage in the curl/flat area with a solid backpedal and good COD to plant and close on receivers within the area. He displays good awareness on screens and can close on the ball quickly. He has good timing and solid speed to blitz from the inside (short and intermediate levels) or on the edge and solid acceleration when he has a free lane.

At Utah, he’s on the near hash in Zone coverage and will jam the receiver going through and shows good COD to break on the underneath pass.


Vs Washington State, he is mugging the B gap and will start to rush. With his lane cut off he stops and gets a hand up to deflect and intercept the pass and has a nice return before getting pushed out of bounds.


Vs Oregon, from the edge he will use a nice hesitation and chop to get around the tackle and make the sack.


Against the run, he is strongest when closer to the line of scrimmage and will pursue to the sideline.  He reads his keys and flows with them and will get in the way of pulling blockers. On the edge he uses his hands well versus blockers and shows solid chase from the backside. He’s a solid tackler relying more on the drag tackle or will fling an opponent down rather than form tackling. He showed solid mental processing running plays as the linebacker in the Dime defense.

Vs Arizona State, he’s on the edge (screen left) and will use his hands to hold off the blocker before spinning and racing to the outside to make the tackle.


At Utah, he’ll walk up near the box with the motion and comes up to fill the gap and cut down the runner.


Vs Washington State, playing linebacker he shows solid mental processing to read the play, ducks under a block and makes the tackle.


He has adequate range as the single high safely lacking the speed and angles to get to the sidelines deep. Marginal awareness on route combinations and saw a few plays where he chose the under routes and missed the deeper route. He was poor in Man coverage overall and is very grabby. I saw him hold, hook and even tackle receiver when covering one on one.  When blitzing he decelerates at contact and was handled easily by blockers including running backs. He doesn’t breakdown in time coming downhill and runners will elude him.  His angles to the outside are too shallow.  Marginal reading the mesh point and would stay with his key with the ball going the other way.  For all his tackles, he lacked physicality especially earlier in the season and he ducks his head very low on head on attempts causing some misses.  When taking on pullers he needs to aggressively clog the lane and not get pushed out of the way.

Vs Arizona State, he’ll come in from the left side and needs to fill the B gap. He is unblocked and allows the runner to get outside for a solid gain.


Vs Utah, this is making the best of a bad decision.  He is the deep safety to the near side and will jump the out route and let the deep route run right by him. Pressure on the QB didn’t allow him to hit the deep receiver and Hufanga intercepted a poorly thrown ball.


Vs Oregon, he is deep in the middle and keying on the TE on the wing. He will follow the TE to his right and has a running start at the swing pass but is too shallow and misses the tackle.


Overall, Hufanga has solid athleticism, is a solid tackler, plays with aggressiveness and pursues the ball well. He is solid in Zone coverage in the short/intermediate areas.  He is poor in Man coverage, needs to improve his angles to the ball as well as his understanding of route combinations.

Initially, I think he could find a role as a dimebacker as well as a core special team player.  With improvement he could eventually be a strong safety playing in the box. It would have to be in a Zone heavy scheme to not put him in a lot of Man coverage situations. The Steelers play more Man coverage and need a backup to the fee safety position so there are better options for them out there.

Projection: Mid-Day 3

Games Watched:  2020 – At Arizona State, At Utah, Vs Washington State, At UCLA, Vs Oregon

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