When the Wildcats received the Letters of Intent from Apaiata Tuihalamaka and Vuna Tuihalamaka they got two of the more highly regarded defensive athletes in the State of California. Apai, or Richard to some, is destined for the SAM position at Arizona while his cousin, four star JUCO Vuna, is destined to add depth and tenacity to either the MIKE or WILL spots or perhaps both.
For a while it looked as if the Cats would have to resort to their ‘B' list of targets for the linebacker spot but that all changed when Apai committed after visiting for the Arizona State game. Vuna visited Tucson after helping his El Camino College team to the California State Title. After Vuna visited the U of A campus and then Oregon State, he and his cousin quickly decided to become Wildcats together.
The Wildcats were already deep across the board at linebacker and the addition of the Tuihalamaka boys only bolsters an already stellar and proven corps. The Wildcats return starters Spencer Larsen (WILL), Ronnie Palmer (MIKE) and Dane Krogstad (SAM) and also bring back their top backups in Adrian McCovy, Xavier Kelley.
The unit does lose both Akin Akinniyi and John McKinney but will also add walk on Cole Graybill who is coming off a very impressive red-shirt year for the Cats as well as Brooks Reed, a converted fullback that has looked very good also.
Apai is likely to backup at the Sam spot while trying to red-shirt in his first year on campus. With senior Krogstad and junior McCovy both having experience and leadership they will be hard to supplant at the SAM spot. Mike Stoops always says the best players play so it is very possible that Apai sees the field in his first year but unlikely, save an injury or two to the unit.
Vuna can also red-shirt and depending on how quickly he develops and learns the system during fall camp he just might. He will come in able to play either the MIKE or WILL spots and both of those spots are manned by All-Conference performers in senior Larsen and junior Palmer. The backups at those positions, Kelley at the WILL and Graybill and McCovy at the MIKE, are capable but it is possible that Vuna take somebody's job with his tenacity and ability to fill gaps and pursue.
Pre-Recruiting Cycle Need…2 LB
SIGNED…2 (Apai and Vuna Tuihalamaka)
WildcatInsider.com Recruiting Grade…A
The Wildcats lost two linebackers to graduation and have now added two. Things looked bleak for a time for this position in this recruiting class but thanks to the hard work and recruiting tenacity of defensive tackles coach Mike Tuiasosopo the Cats quickly added the two they needed to add. The Tuihalamakas add a great deal to the linebacking corps and will undoubtedly make linebackers coach Tim Kish extremely happy come August and the open of Fall Camp 2007. In the end the Wildcats met and slightly exceeded their need at the linebacker position.