FULLERTON, Calif. -- A bevy of attributes make Tyler Luatua of La Mirada (Calif.) an elite prospect, but it’s one you can’t see that stands out above the rest: His dissatisfaction.
He’s physically imposing, yes. He’s strong, quick and versatile, too. Scouts rave on and on and on about the class of 2014 athlete’s advanced skill set. He’s smooth enough to play tight end, yet gritty enough to play linebacker.
The 6-foot-4, 230-pound athlete received his first scholarship offer from UCLA in February and, in a matter of weeks, had gone national. At least locally, no underclassman had a bigger spring. Luatua piled up offer after offer, and is considered one of California’s top recruits in next year’s class.
Luatua knows these are all things to be proud of. His discontent, though, is striking -- especially for a player that has so much to be happy about.
“It’s exciting, but I’ve got to keep my focus and not get too ahead of myself,” Luatua said Wednesday after a multi-team practice at Fullerton College. “I want to get better on the field and in the classroom. This is all great, but I’ve got to stay focused.”
You only need to see the first three plays on Luatua’s 11-minute highlight video to understand why so many schools have come calling. On the first play, Luatua, as a sophomore, pancakes a linebacker with a monstrous block. Next he takes a short pass 68 yards down the sideline and follows that up with a defensive highlight in which he invades the backfield and tackles a ball carrier before he can even take a step.
Alabama, Arkansas, Cal, Florida State, Miami (Fla.), Michigan, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, UCLA, USC and Vanderbilt were among the schools that offered, but two have emerged as frontrunners.
“Right now, USC and Alabama really stand out,” he said.
The Trojans have the local appeal, as well as the Samoan connection with Luatua’s primary recruiter, USC offensive coordinator Kennedy Polamalu. Luatua was one of the non-seniors to attend the recent Rising Stars Camp.
“The USC coaches told me I did great,” Luatua said.
Then there’s Alabama, which sits high on Luatua’s long list for an obvious reason. His brother, Isaac, is a redshirt freshman offensive lineman for the Crimson Tide. Although Luatua has yet to visit Tuscaloosa, he’s convinced the culture at Alabama is a right fit.
“My brother has told me that Coach [Nick] Saban is great, and the community is very good,” Luatua said. “The football, obviously, is great.”
The Trojans, despite the overwhelming success of the current class, have made progress with their 2014 group. USC already has three commitments for next year’s class, all coming from offensive linemen: Casey Tucker (Chandler, Ariz./Hamilton), Jordan Poland (La Jolla, Calif./Country Day) and Toa Lobendahn (Lakewood, Calif./Lakewood).
Though he has high interest in staying close to home, Luatua doesn’t anticipate making a decision any time soon.
He’s still not content.
“I see this going into my senior year,” Luatua said. “I don’t think my decision will come before my senior season. I’ve got to see how things work first.”