Cottonwood athlete receiving early attention

There is a lot of talent in the state of Utah at the lineman position for the class of 2013. That includes a few prospects coming out of Cottonwood High School that are being considered heavily, one of which could end up playing tight end for BYU.

One Cottonwood player that BYU is looking at is athlete Elijah Tupai, who is an intriguing prospect. Tupai has the frame and athleticism that would allow him to play play tight end at the next level or become a lineman if he were to put on more weight.

"I'm about 6'4" or 6'5" and around 240 or 250 pounds," Tupai said. "I play left tackle or defensive end. I like playing defensive end, but I'll play wherever I can to play.

"As a defender, for me, I like to use my speed. My brother always taught me that whoever has the fastest hands wins, so I try to keep my hands fast and my speed up to beat the other guy."

As an offensive tackle, Tupai holds the same philosophy. He likes to use his hands and speed a lot to lock up defenders in a pass rush.

"As an offensive tackle, the same things applies," Tupai said. "The fastest hands and the fastest moves is the one that's going to win, so I play that way and, with the help of my coach, I stay low to execute the play."

For an up-and-coming junior, he's not too shabby in the weight room either.

"I'm pretty strong and my coach likes to kick me out of the weight room," Tupai said. "I spend so much time in there. I squat 440 pounds and bench around 250 pounds."

On Monday, Tupai received quite a few letters from colleges expressing early interest in him.

"I got a letter from Oregon, Utah, BYU, Utah State, Wyoming and a bunch of other schools I never even heard of," said Tupai.

Tupai attended BYU's camp this summer and received quite a bit of attention from the Cougar coaching staff.

"They said they wanted to offer me, but they said they're going to wait until my junior year," Tupai said. "I went to a camp at BYU, not the padded camp but the other camp, and their offensive line coach [Coach Weber] said he really liked me. Just to show them how athletic I am, I went to the defensive [side] and did both.

"Then Coach Kaufusi gave me some advice about getting quicker, getting stronger and staying with the grades. He said he really liked me and that I did really good. He wanted me to work on my fast feet and he really liked my hand work."

After the camp, Tupai also had the opportunity to talk to Coach Mendenhall.

"Coach Mendenhall said I wasn't an o-lineman," said Tupai. "He said that I was a d-end or a tight end. He was like, 'We don't need a d-end or an offensive tackle. We need a tight end.' I would do it. I would try it, but I was a little weary. I came out one morning and tried it and he liked me at tight end."

While he impressed on the football field, Tupai is still being evaluated by the Cougar staff.

"They were just saying how I was really talented and they liked what they saw in me," Tupai said. "They also said they couldn't offer me a scholarship until my junior year. Utah, Utah State and Weber have verbally offered me."

Tupai, who is LDS, doesn't have definite plans on serving a mission. He has mulled over the idea of serving but will see how that fits in with college first. In the meantime, he's waiting to see what offers come in.

"I'm just going to wait until my senior year to see what my choices are," he said. "I know BYU would be a good school. I'm going to rely on my mom and I know she will take care of me."

Total Blue Sports will keep an eye on Tupai and report on any further developments.

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