USC DL recruit checks out Cal

Defensive lineman Pio Vatuvei (Patterson, Calif.) committed last summer to USC but visited Cal officially over the weekend. And the Bears sound like they have as good a shot as anyone right now.

“Cal was a great visit, I had an incredible time,” Vatuvei said. “Vei Moala was my host, but I hung out with the whole team and all the other recruits that were there. It was a huge group, and the one thing I felt more than anything was the sense of family, and that’s most important to me. When anyone asks me what I’m looking for in a school, No. 1 thing is family, and Cal has that.

“The coaches like me as a defensive end in their 3-4 scheme but would move me all over to take advantage of mismatches. Tosh Lupoi is obviously a great coach and a great guy, and he has been recruiting me hard for a long time. I camped with Cal in the summer, and that’s when I was offered. I had already seen the campus, and the new facilities are really coming along, but this visit was really about meeting the players, and that was a lot of fun.”

Bears head coach Jeff Tedford also made a big impression on the lineman.

“From a football standpoint, the trip to Washington I took back in November was pretty equal with this one,” Vatuvei said. “What separated Cal a little was what Coach Tedford had to say about life after football. He talked a lot about the academics at Cal, the alumni support and the opportunities you’ll have when you’re done playing, and that made a big impact.

“Having so many other recruits there also made it stand out. I was with Aziz (Shittu), Shaq Thompson, Arik Armstead, Matt Cochran, Bryce Treggs, and we talked about what kind of team we could have if everyone came to Cal. Bryce has already committed, so he was selling it hard. Like I said, we were all a big family there, and that really made it fun. Plus the location of Cal is pretty enticing. Its only 90 minutes from home, so my family can come up whenever they want.”

Vatuvei will take two more visits before making a final decision.

“I’m going to Utah (Jan. 13) and USC (Jan. 20),” Vatuvei said. “I still consider myself a USC commit, but my mind is wide open and I’m looking at everyone evenly. SC is a great school, and Coach Helton and Orgeron will be by this week. Coach Mills and Nansen from Washington and Coach Kauha’aha’a from Utah will also be over this week.”