Matayo Uiagalei hasn't played a single snap as a junior at Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco High School, MaxPreps' preseason No. 3 team in the country. But that hasn't stopped all of college football's most decorated programs from pursuing him.
Ahead of his season with the Braves, the 6-foot-5, 265-pound talent is quickly closing in on 20 offers, highlighted by Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State.
His music taste is diverse, with artists like Alicia Keys and Faith Evans heavily in the rotation--a vibe that serves as a complete 180 from his play style on the gridiron. Doing damage on both sides of the ball as a pass-rushing defensive end and tight end/wide receiver hybrid, he combines elite athleticism with brute force and physicality to impose his will on opponents in the Southern California's star-studded Trinity League, which is also home to elite schools like Mater Dei (preseason No. 1) and Servite (preseason No. 21).
The rising-junior recruit spent much of his summer on the recruiting trail taking trips to schools among the likes of Georgia, Clemson, Alabama, Ohio State and nearby USC.
"Georgia was kind of short. I couldn't see a lot of it. But just from seeing a little bit it was good. You could tell it was a good program," Uiagalelei told SI All-American.
Getting back out to Clemson presented another opportunity to visit his brother and Tiger quarterback DJ Uiagalelei, who also dominated in the navy, white and vegas gold for the Braves and is expected to lead the Tigers on their quest to repeat as ACC champions in 2021.
"I've been to Clemson a bunch, so I already knew what to expect, just super crisp, on-point. You know what you're gonna get there," he said of the trip. "You're gonna get great players, great athletes and great character from the players."
Of course no trip to the South to take in big-time football programs would be complete without strolling through Tuscaloosa, home of the defending national champion Crimson Tide.
"Alabama, obviously they've been dominating college football for a while. It's cool to see how they put so many players in the league."
Following the SEC circuit, one of California's top prospects checked out Big Ten country during a trip to Columbus, home of former Brave Kourt Williams II as well as CJ Stroud, another big talent from Rancho Cucamonga in the Southern California area.
"The second trip we went to Ohio State and that was really nice, that one was cool too," Uiagalelei said. "I was really impressed by Coach (Larry) Johnson, just his knowledge of the game, how he coaches, and just him as a person. He just seems like a guy that--even if he wasn't a coach he just seems like a good to keep in touch with."
The prized recruit has taken just one trip out west this summer to the hometown Trojans, a team that has ramped up recruiting and is once again capitalizing on major talent in its backyard with players like freshman defensive lineman Korey Foreman.
"I went to USC too, can't forget about USC. It's just so close, it doesn't feel like a trip. USC and a little bit of UCLA for other kids, but I feel like USC is kind of like a dream school for a lot of LA kids. I liked it there."
What's he like about the 2020 Pac-12 South champions? Part of what has his attention is tied into his interest as a music producer.
"It's in LA. Just the culture of USC is home. It's in LA. There's a lot of music out here."
One other big school on the West Coast is involved early, the defending Pac-12 champion Oregon Ducks.
"I've talked to them a few times. I've talked to Coach Joe (Salave'a) a couple times. It's a good culture too. The facilities are amazing, I've been there.
"I don't wanna say it, but they've got some tight uniforms, uniforms is hard. That's a cool thing about them but that's not all they are. It's still a great program, they produce great players, great D-linemen. I feel like they're pretty good."
Visits for the top 2023 prospect will slow down as the season approaches and he prioritizes preparations with his team ahead of a season opener in the Nike Kick-off on August 20.
"Nothing scheduled yet, but I'm definitely looking to go on more (visits) or go back to those same schools."
With his talent being displayed on both sides of the ball, he's hoping to zero in on just one position at the college level.
"I'm not sure yet. I'm gonna pick one. Sometimes I feel like playing both (DE and TE/WR) kind of takes away from my skill at both positions. If I just focus on D-end, I'll be a much better D-end than if I played both at the same time."
The 2021 season will be another opportunity for growth, and Uiagalelei plans to hone his craft and work on playing at a high level more consistently.