Welcome to SEC Country’s daily Roll Tide-ings, a rundown of everything happening in Alabama Crimson Tide recruiting with Chris Kirschner. Today, we talk the latest with a 5-star defensive lineman from the same high school as Tua Tagovailoa.
Hawaii DL serious about Alabama interest
Faatui (Fa-uh-two-e) Tuitele (Two-e-tell-ay) sat at home watching the national championship game, more than 4,000 miles away from Mercedes-Benz Stadium. And when Tua Tagovailoa entered the game in the second half against Georgia, one thought crossed his mind: “This is game over.”
“I know how he thinks, his leadership skills and how he can play,” Tuitele told SEC Country. “He always presents himself as poised, no matter what happens. Even if he gets sacked, he’s poised. He throws an interception and he never holds his head down. He doesn’t let anything get to his head. I knew it was game over when he went in that game. Tua does what Tua does.”
It turns out the 5-star defensive tackle from St. Louis School (Honolulu) was right. As we all know by now, Tagovailoa led Alabama to a comeback victory and is now cemented in Crimson Tide lore for the rest of time.
Now, Alabama is going to try and sign another 5-star player from Hawaii in Tuitele. The Tide haven’t offered Tuitele just yet, but fans should expect them to when he visits on April 5. Tuitele spoke with defensive coordinator Tosh Lupoi on Monday night and told him that they just want to be sure he’s serious about his interest in Alabama, and that will happen once he visits Tuscaloosa in early April.
It’s going to be an important visit for Tuitele because the first time Tagovailoa, who is a distant cousin of Tuitele, traveled to Tuscaloosa, he fell in love with the place. He only visited once to know that Alabama was the school for him.
Watching Tagovailoa have the success he had in his first year has shown Tuitele that he, too, could choose a school on the other side of the country and prosper.
“Seeing Tua on the biggest stage and win a national championship — it really motivated me and gives me the confidence that I can set a path for myself and go to the East Coast and make a name for myself like he did,” Tuitele said. “Seeing what he did in the national championship game was mind-blowing. Just the year before, I was playing with him in the state championship game. The next year, he’s in the national championship game. He let everyone know that Hawaii players can hang with the big dogs.”
Placing trust in faith and family
The nation’s No. 2 defensive tackle in the 247Sports composite rankings said having Tagovailoa at Alabama helps the Tide’s chances with him because it would make the transition from being so far away from home easier.
It’s clear from talking to Tuitele that having Tagovailoa at Alabama gives the Tide a clear path to having the opportunity to sign Tuitele when he makes his decision later this year.
“He deserves everything,” Tuitele said. “I know how hard he works. He has a great family. Uncle Galu and Auntie Diane (Tagovailoa’s parents) are great people and back him up with everything. We are raised to put God first with everything. That’s what Tua did. He represented our culture, our people and the island so well. It was awesome to see.”
Tuitele, who was told by Lupoi that he has the versatility to play anywhere on the defensive line, said that when he does visit Alabama he wants to see more than just the national championship trophies and hear about all of the players the Tide have sent to the NFL. He wants to see the environment Tuscaloosa has and learn why it’s the place Tagovailoa fell in love with two years ago as a recruit.
Most importantly, and it’s always a challenge with players from Hawaii, he has no qualms about choosing a school that’s on the East Coast.
“I’ve been thinking a lot about it,” Tuitele said. “There’s no distance that I’ll hold myself to. Nothing will limit which college I want to go to. Location doesn’t play any factor in my choice in the end. My family wants me to choose the school that I am most comfortable at.”
Alabama far from alone in this race
The 6-foot-4, 299-pound prospect doesn’t have a leader in his recruitment at this point and named Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, LSU, Tennessee, Ohio State and almost every Pac-12 school as the primary schools who are in touch with him.
Tua isn’t the only Tagovailoa that may wind up at Alabama. Tua’s little brother, Taulia, is a 4-star quarterback in the 2019 class. He’s one of the Tide’s top priorities as the team is hoping to sign two quarterbacks this cycle.
“I talk to Taulia here and there,” Tuitele said. “Taulia is the same class as me, so we would be running into each other a lot and probably having similar classes. If he goes there and chooses Alabama, it would help me a lot.”
This recruitment has similar vibes to Tagovailoa, in my opinion. If he follows through with that visit to Tuscaloosa in April, watch out.
Miss a previous edition? Find every post of SEC Country’s daily Roll Tide-ings recruiting notebook right here.