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 the nation’s No. 1 quarterback.
DJ Uiagalelei taking things slowly
REDONDO BEACH, Calif. — The best high school quarterback on Redondo Beach High School’s field Saturday night may not have been any of the 24 quarterbacks participating in the Elite 11 competition. The best quarterback in all of high school football may have been standing on the sidelines in a gray Nike jacket.
“We hope to see you out here next year,” Brian Stumpf, the president of Student Sports, told DJ Uiagalelei.
Uiagalelei, the nation’s No. 1 quarterback in the 247Sports 2020 rankings from St. John Bosco (Bellflower, Calif.) High, will make his first visit to Tuscaloosa next Monday. He’ll fly out on Sunday, stay Monday and Tuesday, then visit Clemson on Wednesday and Thursday.
“I just want to get out to Alabama to see what they’re all about,” Uiagalelei told SEC Country. “You see them on TV every week and see them in the national championship almost every year. I just want to see what it’s like in person.”
According to his father, David, DJ Uiagalelei has his eyes on the SEC right now. They both think that the SEC is the best conference in which to play college football and presents the best opportunity to get drafted highly, which makes this visit to Tuscaloosa next week an important one.
There’s a longstanding connection between the Uiagaleleis and Crimson Tide defensive coordinator Tosh Lupoi. One of David’s cousins played with Lupoi at the University of California-Berkeley. Lupoi was the one who offered Uiagalelei when the latter was a ninth grader, which is something that means a lot to the family because it showed trust that he believed in his skills at an early age.
David had nothing but high praise for Lupoi and noted how respected the assistant is in California from not only him but other parents and coaches he has talked to.
Having Tua and Taulia Tagovailoa — the second an Alabama quarterback commit in the Class of 2019 — also helps the Tide. The Tagovailoas, like Uiagalelei, are Samoan, and their culture is important to the 2020 4-star prospect.
“It’s huge to be Samoan and see someone on the biggest stage of college football and throw the game-winning touchdown to win the national championship,” Uiagalelei said. “As a culture, we just want to see all the Samoans do well. And it’s not just Samoans, but the Polynesian culture — Tongans, Samoans, Hawaiians, Fijians. It’s awesome to see our culture out there.
“Polynesians are just a tight-knit group. You can just go around and say, ‘What’s up , uso [brother]?’ You’ll always get a smile or a wave from us Polynesians. It’s like everyone knows each other and is friendly with one another, even if you don’t know them. That’s just something that we do. We want everyone to succeed. We’re all family.”
The 6-foot-4, 240-pound prospect said he’s met Tua only a few times, but he talks to Taulia often. He spent time with Taulia last weekend where the younger Tagovailoa was named one of the top 12 quarterbacks at the Elite 11, earning him an invite to The Opening Finals later this month. There he will have a chance to win the Elite 11 MVP, won by Tua in 2016. Uiagalelei said he thinks Taulia is a ‘cool dude with great energy.’
Uiagalelei doesn’t have a timetable on when he’ll make a college decision. He’s still in the process of visiting as many schools as possible. The Clemson trip is also an important one. His father made it clear that Dabo Swinney has made a big impression on him and his son already. It also helps the Tigers that St. John Bosco’s offense the last two years mimicked Clemson’s.
“I like their offense a lot,” Uiagalelei said of Clemson. “When Deshaun Watson was there, I would watch game film with my old offensive coordinator, Chad Johnson. We were running the same offense Clemson has my freshman and sophomore year. It was cool to see that Clemson is running what we do here. I feel like my game would translate well.”
Southern California has been the school that most associate Uiagalelei with, but after talking to him and his father, there’s not one school right now that holds an edge on the next.
“I’m open to anybody,” Uiagalelei said. “I don’t have a top school right now. I’m open to any school, even if it’s 3,000 miles away or 3 miles away. It really doesn’t matter to me. It’s wherever the best fit is for me.”
Trey Sanders back to having ‘Bama buzz?
Trey Sanders, the nation’s No. 1 running back in the 2019 class, told SEC Country two weeks ago that Alabama has ‘always been in it’ for him, even after his de-commitment from the Tide back in January.
Sanders returned to Tuscaloosa for the team’s first summer camp this week and my sources told me that the trip went well for him. It’s important to note that his older brother, Umstead, also visited Alabama with him. Umstead is committed to Florida as a preferred walk-on in the 2018 class and is not bound to any letter of intent to play for the Gators.
One source said he believes Trey is “Alabama all the way,” while another feels like a re-commitment would be “out of left field.” But one thing is certain — never, ever count Alabama out of any recruiting race that it wants to win.
This is still going to be a long process for Sanders and Alabama because the 5-star prospect isn’t planning on making a decision until December.
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