Pac-10 foes pursuing Matangi Tonga

Junior college transfers with one year of eligibility rarely get considerable attention, but Matangi Tonga is an exception. With visits already to Washington, Houston and USC, today the College of San Mateo DT wrapped up his visit to ASU. He talked to Devils Digest after his trip about his recruitment not only with the Sun Devils but also with the Trojans in light of Pete Carroll's departure.

"This was the first time I saw the campus or even been to the Phoenix area," said the 6-3 285 Matangi Tonga. "It was a great experience and I really enjoyed that. I got to meet with the coaches, the trainers, and the academic staff. I toured the campus, saw the indoor facility, and some of the housing on campus.

"It was all really nice and I was impressed with the environment, the football aspect, the academic aspect…just everything looked great to me."

Tonga's host player was Arizona State defensive tackle Saia Falahola, who also happens to be his cousin.

"It's definitely a plus to go to a program where I have a family member already there," Tonga admitted. "He answered a lot of my questions about the program which is why I'm considering ASU. He convinced me that this program will only get better and they already had the best defense in the Pac-10 last year."

Tonga was selected first team All-American by the College Football Coaches Association. The Bulldogs from Northern California finished the 2009 campaign 10-2 and lost 7-6 to Mt. SAC in the state championship game. Going into to that contest, the defensive tackle recorded posting 53 tackles, 17 tackles-for-loss and 10 sacks.

Tonga reportedly run a sub-4.7 forty and benches in the 450-range. He considers his strong skills as getting off the ball and striking his opponent first. "I'm pretty athletic for my size," Tonga remarked. "I play a lot of basketball so that helps."

Tonga is likely to play in a 4-3 alignment at the D-I level, which would be a departure from the scheme he had played the last three years.

"I never really ran a four-man front since high school," Tonga recalled. "I was playing the 3-4 at BYU (where Tonga was a member of the team one year before he was dismissed) and San Mateo. I like the four-man front better because you get to attack the offense more. When you play the 3-4 is more about reading the offense, two-gapping and keeping the linemen off the linebackers.

"I really think I would enjoy a 4-3 front."

Tonga visited Washington on October 10th and Houston on December 17th. He squeezed in two Pac-10 visits this week arriving at USC on Tuesday and departing two days later for Tempe. Tonga remarked that both the USC and ASU visits were similar in many ways, but have their own differences.

"Both are obviously Pac-10 programs and they run the same type of defense," Tonga said. "But the location, the style of the coaches is pretty different. Both have good coaches I couldn't go wrong with any program."

While on his visit to Los Angeles, Tonga was in all likelihood the last recruit to personally meet with Head Coach Pete Carroll who reportedly just yesterday has accepted the same position with the Seattle Seahawks. We asked Tonga how this latest news will affect his recruitment with USC.

"Everybody wants to play for a coach like Pete Carroll," Tonga acknowledged, "and now there is going to be someone else in charge at USC. So that can change what they do recruiting wise, how that new coach feels about me and I would fit in with the program. The program is obviously going to change when Pete Carroll isn't there anymore.

"I'm still considering them, because USC is still going to be USC. They are still going to be the powerhouse. Their D-Line coach, Jethro Franklin, is a really good guy. I just don't know right now how that (Carroll's departure) changes things for me."

Tonga claimed that he isn't planning to take any more official visits, but didn't rule out going on one last trip before his decision. Since location and the ability for his family to attend his games are important to him, he seems to favor the Pac-10 programs over Houston, but didn't declare a favorite.

"USC is an elite program," Tonga said, "but Arizona State and Washington are programs that will only get better and are rising real fast. I could see myself playing for any of those three programs."

Since he has just one year to play, and even though he's projected to be a solid NFL prospect, when Tonga will make his decision he will give serious consideration to a school that not only offers him a scholarship but will also honor that scholarship until he graduates.

"All the schools are talking with their athletic departments to see if they can offer me a scholarship," Tonga explained. "The first school to offer me could be the school I commit to, but I'm not sure yet. I'm going to talk to my coaches because they have already been through this process so many times and they have a better insight than me. "

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