BYU offers young running back

Down at BYU's camp, the pads are popping and the hits are fast and furious under the heat of the Utah sun. But that's not all that is hot. BYU has offered a sophomore running back that will be a junior this upcoming year.

This week, East High School running back Ula Tolutau received an offer from the Cougar coaching staff. According to his head coach Brandon Matich, Tolutau also has an offer from Utah State.

"I know BYU is a dream situation for him," Matich said about his running back.

According to Tolutau's father Pate, the experience he and his son had while visiting BYU was a special moment for father and son.

"That was a really weird feeling," said Pate. "We went up there just for a one-day camp, and I watched him work with the other running backs and saw an assistant coach working with him. When we were done with the camp, they told us they wanted us to come up to the office before we leave and go home."

"I spoke to Ula and he said he performed really well and BYU had him catch a lot of balls while he was down there," Coach Matich said. "You know, BYU throws their backs the ball along with having them run the ball, which is unique for him because we don't do a lot of that in a triple option offense."

Following the camp, Ula and his father went in to meet with Coach Mendenhall.

"It was just a funny feeling because you get goose bumps all over body," said Pate. "I've always wanted to go to BYU and I always dreamed of having a son play for BYU. I was totally impressed with him and what he talked about."

Pate wasn't the only one that was impressed with the meeting between head coach and recruit; apparently Coach Mendenhall was impressed as well.

"I guess Coach Mendenhall asked him about five things he would look for when recruiting a player if he were a coach," said Matich. "Ula talked about leadership as one, righteousness, ability, honor, and I can't remember all the things he said. Ula talked about the honor code and I know there were some religious things that were talked about.

"Coach Mendenhall asked him to read, and I'm not LDS, so excuse me if I don't get it right, but I think it was from President Thomas Monson? I think it was just the way he answered questions about honor, righteousness, character and leadership. He really is a sharp kid and apparently one the best meetings Coach Mendenhall's had with a kid he is recruiting. Not only did his father tell me that, but Coach DuPaix also told me that."

As a father who raised his son to hold fast to the standards of their faith and the core of their family values, Pate was impressed with the meeting with Coach Mendenhall.

"Coach Mendenhall said, ‘This was the best interview I've ever had,'" said Pate. "I was expecting Coach Mendenhall to ask him questions about football, but there was none of that. Coach Mendenhall talked about his future and about helping him reach his potential and there was nothing about football. I was expecting football questions from him, but there was none of that. It was all about his plans for the future and helping him reach those goals. When I walked out of the room, it was just a totally different feeling. I was really happy that I found out that BYU is not just about football, but more about a coach who is interested in my son's life."

After receiving the verbal offer from Coach Mendenhall, Ula expressed his gratitude. His father sat waiting for his son to give BYU's head coach an answer.

"I was hoping he would commit, but he still has a couple of years" said Pate with a laugh in his voice. "He told Coach Mendenhall, ‘I want to talk it over with my family, especially my mom.' I was kind of upset because it was the one sitting there with him in his office and helped you with your football career. He said he would give them a call back and I'm sure they're waiting for his call."

"[Tolutau] said meeting with BYU and the coaching staff down there was great, and, you know, he really likes Coach DuPaix," Coach Matich said. "He has a fondness for Coach DuPaix and Coach Doman. In meeting with Coach Mendenhall, he said that his meeting with Ula was the best he's ever had in a one-on-one player that he's recruiting.

"Whether or not he ends up there, I don't know, but he is a special kid. He is a 3.5 GPA type kid and was the sophomore student body president. He's a very humble kid and just a great young man to coach. He's got great morals and tremendous ability."

Ula's abilities as a running back can't be measured based on his performance last year, according to Matich.

"The unique thing about Ula is over the course of last season he's put on about somewhere around 25 to 30 pounds of muscle and really exploded," said Coach Matich. "It's really been an incredible transformation, so he's gone from a good back to a really, really good back. He's going to be a tough kid to take down at 230 pounds.

"As fast as he is, a 230-pound running back is tough to bring down as is. He is approximately 6'1" and we want to try and keep him at around 220 or 225. He's about right where we want him to be, so we just have to keep him there. He's a well put-together kid. He's got big shoulders and big legs and is fast. He's really well proportioned and isn't a heavy-looking kid. He's put together really well."

As mentioned earlier, East High School runs a triple option offense, which incorporates various running backs.

"It's kind of an interesting story," said Coach Matich. "He kind of emerged late and was kind of a rotator for [us] and was a slot. He was a really good blocker for us and had really good speed for his size, but was around 195 pounds and wasn't as big as he is now. He emerged really late but was a key component in our playoff run last year. Now you look at him and you hope he's going to be a premier guy for us next year, and with offers from BYU and Utah State, he's got high expectations.

"I think next year will be more of an indication of what kind of back he is and the potential he has. We're going to run him this year and he'll be our d-back and kind of rotate him at certain situations. We'd like him to be a 1,500-to-2,000-yard guy."

As for choosing a college to play for, it might take some time for Ula to come to a decision.

"I respect the decision of my son," Pate said. "I did tell my son that he needs to respect the opportunity that he's been given and call Coach DuPaix and talk to him about what he wants to do. I think it's going to take time and I know he always talks about it. He doesn't really want to commit to anybody right now. I respect that and I told him to think about if he wants to play instate to not worry about giving your information out of state. If you just want the offers from all three schools instate, then just focus on that."

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