Tide hope to strike gold in California

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- On last year’s national championship team, reserve offensive lineman Issac Luatua was the only player from California on Alabama’s roster. That number will double this fall with the addition of long snapper Cole Mazza (Bakersfield, Calif./Liberty), but it could grow exponentially going into the 2014-2015 season.

Nick Saban and his staff have made the Golden State a priority with the 2014 class, and they reaped the benefits on Thursday with the commitment of ESPN 150 offensive lineman Viane Talamaivao (Corona, Calif./Centennial).

The 6-foot-2, 316-pound interior lineman chose Alabama over offers from the majority of the Pac-12 including local powers UCLA and USC. There’s a draw to playing in the SEC even for a kid who grew up on the West Coast.

“It’s crazy I get a chance to represent down in the South,” Talamaivao said. “I carry some pride in that.”

It was the Crimson Tide’s first 2014 commitment from California, but it looks like they’re just getting started out West.

Alabama is among the favorites for fellow ESPN 150 offensive lineman Damien Mama (Bellflower, Calif./John Bosco), a close friend of Talamaivao’s, as well as the nation’s No. 1 tight end prospect Tyler Luatua (La Mirada, Calif./La Mirada). The latter could join his brother Isaac Luatua in Tuscaloosa if he chooses the Tide.

This summer, the trio of Talamaivao, Mama and defensive lineman Ainuu Taua (Lompoc, Calif./Lompoc) was hoping to make a trip down South to see both Alabama and Ole Miss. The Tide haven’t offered Taua yet, but he’s on their radar.

Alabama has offered ESPN 150 athletes Michiah Quick (Fresno, Calif./Central East) and John “JuJu” Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Poly) in this class.

Since Saban arrived, Alabama has signed just one player from California. They just missed on five-star defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes (Auburn, Calif./Placer) in the last class. But with the recent success on the field and the Thursday’s addition of Talamaivao, the Tide are beginning to turn their fortune out West.