BYU taking hard look at 2013 d-tackle

BYU is taking a hard look at a 6-foot-2-inch, 285-pound junior-to-be Merrell "Meti" Taliauli, a defensive tackle from East High School. Taliauli attended BYU's summer camp and caught the attention of Coach Kaufusi and the rest of the BYU coaching staff.

At BYU's summer camp, Meti Taliauli competed with many of the defensive linemen attending the camp. In the one-on-one drills, Taliauli impressed BYU's coaches by putting his strength on display.

"The coaches really liked me and they wanted to talk a lot," Taliauli said. "I'm really strong for my age. I bench 315 pounds right now and squat 450, and still have two more years of high school football left."

Not only are his numbers strong in the weight room, but this Tongan athlete's numbers in the classroom also add up nicely.

"In the classroom, I'm doing really good," Taliauli said. "Right now I have an accumulative GPA of 3.8 from my freshman and sophomore years."

Taliauli caught the eye of Coach Kaufusi as well as Weber State coach Jason Kaufusi, who was helping out with BYU's summer camp.

"Coach Kaufusi spoke to me a lot at BYU's camp," Taliauli said. "I also spoke to Jason Kaufusi, and they said the only thing I need to work on is my speed and that's it. Then they'll offer me later on. They want me to get a little quicker."

"Coach Kaufusi told me specifically that he wants me to work on my speed and in getting a little quicker. He said he wants me to work on my agility and my hip flexibility. It was good to get that information from him and it was good to get noticed by him."

After attending the camp, Taliauli got to meet with the Cougar head coach.

"After the camp, Steve Kaufusi told me to go up and talk to Coach Mendenhall," said Taliauli. "It was me, Vaha [Vainuku], Vaha's dad, Steve Kaufusi, as well as Bronco Mendenhall. I was really nervous because it was the first time meeting a head coach, and I really like BYU and it's one of my top choices of schools that I want to go to."

Like with many other recruits before, Coach Mendenhall reviewed the expectations of what it takes to first receive a scholarship offer from the BYU coaching staff.

"We were talking a lot about the high standards of what it takes to get into BYU," Taliauli said. "He has a lot of high standards and expectations for me to do. He said I did very good and was one of the best athletes there. He said that if I keep my grades up, he will look forward to offering me. It was a great experience."

Mendenhall went over some expectations and outlined what it takes to get a BYU scholarship offer.

"The first step was to be at the camp, so they know you are willing to come to camps to try to get recruited," said Taliauli. "The other thing was how well are you doing in school. You have to have like a 3.3 GPA and a 19 on the ACT and all that. You have to live your church standards and you have to be a great athlete.

"The two main things that Coach Mendenhall wanted from me was to get my speed up. He talked with me and Vaha about getting our speed and keeping our grades up. If we do that then we'll be able to get a scholarship."

The meeting with Coach Mendenhall not only impressed the young football players, but it also left an impression on Taliauli's mother as well.

"Meeting Coach Mendenhall was a great experience," said Taliauli. "He's one of the best coaches out there and a humble man. He's a great man, a great man. My mom went to the U of U, and so she really didn't want me to go to BYU, but after we finished talking with Coach Mendenhall, she was excited about me going to BYU."

So the expectation for Taliauli is to get his speed up, and a scholarship offer could be on the table for him. With two years left of high school football to play, he has set his sights on doing just that.

"BYU is my first choice," he said. "I grew up a BYU fan and I knew a lot of people that went there. I grew up watching BYU football and remember when Fui Vakapuna used to come over to my house when I was a kid. We used to play around and he would teach me all these drills and all that when I was younger."

If Taliauli does receive a coveted BYU scholarship offer, there is a good chance that he will commit to BYU.

"It would be a 99 percent chance that I would commit to him right there," Taliauli said without hesitation. "I would do it right then and there. I'm going to work hard and continue to get stronger and faster. I'm going to be a good example to the little ones. I'm going to be a leader and show Coach Mendenhall that I'm serious about getting that BYU scholarship offer."

Meanwhile, Taliauli has an older brother Toni that is currently serving a mission to the isles of Tonga. At 6 feet 5 inches and 310 pounds, Elder Toni Taliauli has the goal in mind of walking on at BYU when he returns home from his mission.

"My brother said that when he comes home from his mission that he wants to go to BYU," said the younger Taliauli. "He's really big and said when he gets back he wants to try and walk on at BYU."

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