It may be the month of July, and the COVID-19 pandemic may be seriously hindering recruiting for most of the college football programs throughout the country. But for the University of Utah, head coach Kyle Whittingham and co. are off to a stellar start in recruiting compared to where they usually are this time of year.
Headlining Utah's 2021 recruiting class is quarterback Peter Costelli, one of the top-ranked passers in the country according SI All American's John Garcia.
Joining Costelli is one of the premier running backs in the country in soon-to-be four-star running back Ricky Parks out of Gaither High School in Tampa, Florida. The Utes the secured their first wide receiver commit of the 2021 class when Deamikkio Nathan, the playmaker out of South Grand Prairie High School in Grand Prairie, Texas, announced his commitment to the Utes on July 1.
All three players have been named SI All-American nominees.
But now with the offense starting to thrive, Utah must turn its attention to the other side of the ball. With three-star linebacker Trey Reynolds, another SI All-American nominee, already on board, the Utes are looking to add to its linebacker depth and pari Reynolds with another game-changer on the outside.
Enter Mason Tufaga, a four-star linebacker out of Saint Louis High School in Honolulu, HI.
Tufaga may not be committed to Utah but he's seen as one of those prospects where it's only a matter of time until he pledges to the Utes. Both 247 analysts Blair Angulo and Steve Bartle are predicting Utah as the favorite for Tufaga's services.
This is a kid who comes from a great high school in producing elite college-level talent, including former Heisman trophy winner Marcus Mariota of Oregon.
While not the biggest of players right now, Tufaga tests off the charts athletically and is seen as someone who will easily put on good weight at the next level. With Utah's strong Polynesian background, Tufaga's twitter account shows the Utes plenty of love throughout.
The Utes only signed one ILB recruit from the 2020 class in 3-star Sione Fotu — and with expected 2020 starters Devin Lloyd and Sione Lund draft eligible following the upcoming season, there is room for playing time.
Here's a complete breakdown by SI All-American director of recruiting John Garcia regarding what Tufaga can do at the next level...
Prospect: Mason Tufaga
Status: SI All-American Candidate
Vitals: 6-foot-1, 220 pounds
School: Honolulu (Hawaii) Saint Louis
Schools of Interest: Considering Utah, Arizona, Colorado, San Diego State and more.
Projected Position: Linebacker
Frame: Long frame with evenly-distributed weight throughout. Solid muscle mass in the upper and lower half with room to pack on more in the coming years.
Athleticism: Quicker than fast with great, efficient movement skill once target identifies himself. Some sideline to sideline ability with great closing speed and power. Lower-body explosion is evident in contact. Can redirect in the open field without considerable wasted movement.
Instincts: Patient approach through play diagnostic with an intriguing 0-60 phase thereafter. Strong motor through the first contact as well as in pursuit regardless of distance. Gets head around and finishes with great pad level and leverage. Volume tackler.
Polish: More efficient run-pass diagnosis would enhance his strongest physical traits. Does play under control despite aggressive style and enforcer tendencies in the box. Comfortable in space, especially playing outside in. Limited pass coverage samples but steady in pursuit with raw tools to play underneath zones and potentially flank a running back.
Bottom Line: Tufaga is a heat-seeking missile at the inside linebacker position with strong explosion downhill and from a lateral standpoint. He is advanced in the box with most elements of run defense, from shedding blocks with leverage and hand technique to fast-flowing through the hole with some pop. As his body physically matures and coverage comfort arrives, should be able to be a multi-year impact player at a high major program.
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