Welcome to SEC Country’s daily Roll Tide-ings, a rundown of everything happening in Alabama Crimson Tide recruiting with Chris Kirschner. In this edition, we talk the latest with one of Alabama’s defensive line targets.
Siaki Ika is a priority target for Alabama
Before East High School squared off against Bingham in Utah’s state championship game last November, Siaki Ika, a 4-star defensive tackle from Salt Lake City, grabbed the microphone. The 6-foot-3, 360-pound lineman didn’t grab it to give a rousing pregame speech. Instead, he sang the national anthem prior to the state championship.
Ika has been singing all of his life. His father’s brother performed in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, a group that has won numerous musical awards for decades. Not only can Ika sing, but he can play the ukulele, trumpet and baritone.
Ika has seen Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s videos of him singing. He wouldn’t say if he had a better of voice than Tagovailoa, but Crimson Tide defensive coordinator Tosh Lupoi has joked with Ika about committing to Alabama, so the two players can start a singing duo.
“Tosh tells me that Tua needs a jam partner, and I should be the guy,” Ika said with a laugh.
Being a singer isn’t the only fun fact about Ika. Siaki, who goes by Apu, was nicknamed that by his parents because they thought he looked like the monkey from Aladdin when he was a baby. Except that’s not the monkey’s name.
“My dad doesn’t speak good English, so it came out as Apu instead of Abu,” Ika laughed. “That’s stuck with me since.”
The parents of the nation’s No. 11 defensive tackle recently moved back to Tonga, where they grew up. His father is starting a business in his native country, so now Ika lives with his older siblings in Utah.
His parents visited Tuscaloosa with him during a trip to Alabama last month. Ika said his parents loved everything about the school.
“The biggest thing I miss with them not being here is not being able to experience this with them,” Ika said. “That’s why the Bama trip was so special. That was the first time they got a taste of all of this.”
My greatest Joy is being able to experience this with you two. Thank you mom and dad! I love you! Oku ou fiefia mo fakamaloia ihe mea kotoa kuo ke foaki mai maaku. He ikai teu toe lava o totongi fakafoki kia teki moua, Kuo mate ihe Ofa atu❤️ pic.twitter.com/wfazcoyeTM
— Siaki Ika'🦁 (@Jackfish801) April 21, 2018
That was Ika’s second trip to Tuscaloosa this year, which is significant considering he lives in Utah. He’s going to visit them at least once more this fall when he takes an official visit to Alabama. Ika will use all five of his allotted visits. He only has one set right now and that’s to Southern Cal on June 22.
Ika, who was named the defensive line MVP last weekend at the Las Vegas Elite 11 camp, said he wants to learn more from the players on his next visit to Tuscaloosa and ask them what they think of the coaches and life outside of football at Alabama.
Utah’s No. 1 prospect said there’s definitely a lot of interest in Alabama on his end, but it’s the same with the other schools he’s into at the moment. He named LSU, Nebraska, Oregon, Utah and Washington as schools he’s strongly considering.
Alabama already has a nose tackle commitment in the 2019 class in 4-star prospect DJ Dale, but SEC Country was told that Ika can commit to the Crimson Tide at any time. He’s a top target and one I would project in this class right now.
“They’re top dogs,” Ika said. “If you go there, the competition is going to be top-notch. As far as developing yourself as a player, in the eyes of a lot of people, that’s the best place to be.”
An open depth chart is going to play a big role in his decision. The only true nose tackle Alabama has on the roster right now is Tevita Musika, who will arrive on campus in June. Musika has two years of eligibility remaining.
The lack of interior defensive line depth is something that Lupoi has stressed to Ika.
“It’s something that he pitches to me the most,” Ika said. “They are very thin with interior guys. They’re losing a lot of guys and have already lost a lot of guys on the interior line. I have an opportunity there. He wants me to come in and play nose or inside shade or outside shade.”
Weight has been a concern for several schools that are pursuing Ika. He said he gained weight this offseason as he recovered from a back injury. He wants to get down to 300 or 310 pounds and has a plan in place to do so. His school got a new strength and conditioning coach and he put the entire team on a meal plan. Ika’s was adjusted specifically to help him reach his goal of dropping weight. It’s something that Ika is confident will happen.
He likely won’t make a commitment until December, and he’s planning on being an early enrollee at the school of his choice. Alabama is hoping when Ika, who was once committed to BYU, makes his next decision, he’ll choose the Tide.
“They are talking with me a lot,” Ika said. “Tosh tells me that he talks to my high school coach every day. I get on the phone with Tosh at least once a week, so we talk pretty frequently. He’s a great guy outside of all the football talk. I see him as a friend and one of the homies.”
Final prediction on Antonio Alfano‘s decision
Another defensive lineman Alabama is hoping to land is Antonio Alfano, a 4-star defensive end from Colonia (N.J.) High School. Alfano will announce his commitment to either Alabama, Georgia or Penn State at 3 p.m. ET Friday.
My prediction, him choosing Alabama, hasn’t changed for more than a month when I spoke to Alfano shortly after his visit to Tuscaloosa, which you can read about here. This recruitment turned quickly after that April visit to Tuscaloosa. It looked like Alfano was leaning toward Penn State before his visit to Alabama and Georgia. But the visit to Alabama blew him away.
Alfano had questions about the depth chart on the defensive line, and he didn’t realize how open it is heading into next season. The coaching staff has stressed the depth chart to him and has reminded him that the Tide failed to sign a true defensive end in the 2018 class. Musika is strictly a nose guard and Stephon Wynn and Christian Barmore are defensive tackles. Isaiah Buggs and Johnny Dwight will exhaust their eligibility after this season and Raekwon Davis is a likely candidate to declare early for the NFL draft.
In 2019, the Tide will have LaBryan Ray, Quinnen Williams, Phidarian Mathis, Wynn, Barmore and Musika on the defensive line plus whichever recruits they sign this class, so the opportunity to make an early impact is attainable for a Class of 2019 recruit such as Alfano.
Alabama needs lots of help on the defensive line in the Class in 2019 and should land one of the best this cycle on Friday when Alfano makes his decision. It needs to be noted that Alfano’s recruitment is expected to end after his decision is made. He told SEC Country that he will only take an official visit to the school where he commits on Friday.
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