Things are starting to heat up on the spring recruiting track. Now that most of the 2022 prospects are signed to their respective schools, the focus shifts to the 2023s, with many of the cycle’s best players already coming off the board.
Bellflower (California) is the defensive end for St. John Bosco High School. Matayo Uiagalelei. With 20 offers reported to his name, his top schools could gain clarity this month as he navigates the recruiting process.
“I feel like it’s going pretty well,” Uiagalelei said. “I try to specify where I want to go. It’s a bit difficult but I’m getting there.”
The 6-foot-5, 270-pounder has seen plenty of schools in the West since the start of the calendar year, with Oregon and USC each receiving a pair of defensive star visits.
After a chaotic winter coaching carousel, new Oregon coach Dan Lanning is one of the most intriguing first-year head coaches in the nation as he seeks to bring his defensive dominance and his sense of recruiting with him on the west coast.
“Definitely the new coaching staff, I really like it,” Uiagalelei said of what he loves about the Ducks. “Coach Lanning, you saw what he did at Georgia. He certainly has a lot of experience and he’s still young, so he relates to the players and he’s kind of like that middle ground.”
Lincoln Riley is one coach in particular who doesn’t want to see Uiagalelei dress for the Ducks, as he prioritizes keeping Southern Cal’s top talent home to begin his stay in Angeles City.
“I think it’s similar situations for both (USC and Oregon),” he said. “They both have very good new staff members. I think Coach Riley is definitely turning the program around. I have a pretty good relationship with the D-line coach, Coach ( Shaun) Nua from Michigan. I think they have great things to come.”
With a solid understanding of what the Pac-12 has to offer, Uiagalelei has his next tour slate locked down. During the month of April, he will travel to Clemson, Alabama and the State of Ohio.
He’s no stranger to any of the aforementioned campuses, but will nevertheless have his eye on certain things in particular as he travels for miles across the country.
“I’ve been to all these schools before, so it’s just a bit more felt,” added Uiagalelei. “Seeing how they practice. I think I’ll also be at Ohio State’s spring game when I go, so just to see how they play, I haven’t been to one of theirs yet. games. Ohio State, Clemson, Alabama – all three of those schools that I hold in high esteem.”
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As he ticks off trips to some of the sport’s top programs, the high schooler will assess what each school brings to the table and how they fit with his vision of what his ideal landing spot looks like.
“I’m looking for player development, like where can I go to be the best player and the best person,” he said. “I’m definitely looking at the positional coaches, the positional coach that I’ll be with. Just the program as a whole, the reputation that they kind of have, or what I think they’re going to evolve into in the future. to come up.”
Uiagalelei differs from many rookies in that he has made a name for himself off the pitch as a music producer. This is one aspect of the process that could prove to be a nice bonus if a school could help with these efforts.
“I feel like I already have a plan for this,” he said. “I wouldn’t say it’s one of the main things I look for. If they can help me, that’s definitely a bonus.”
With his visiting schedule locked down, one of the country’s best players doesn’t seem to be getting any closer to a decision.
“Not necessarily,” he replied when asked about an engagement timeline. “My brother (Clemson quarterback DJ Uiagalelei) signed on as May from his freshman year. I don’t really have a time frame yet.”
After his next round of trips, he’ll likely sit down and try to figure out when he’ll make his official visits and which schools have done enough to receive one of the coveted five trips.
“I’m not sure yet, but I think I’ll take them over the summer,” he said.
Uiagalelei’s recent moves on the recruiting track could indicate a top group, a distinct group showing him the most love.
“Most of the ones I’ve been to. USC, Bama, Oregon, Ohio State and Clemson. A few other schools as well.”