Filiaga Narrows Choices to Utah, Nebraska and BYU

Utah's strongest and one of its most dominating defensive tackles is having a standout year on the field even as he works to overcome academic challenges off the field.

As the strongest player at a Nike summer camp, Isley Filiaga has drawn constant recruiting attention from coaches from BYU, Utah, Nebraska, Arizona, Oregon, Washington, Cal-Berkeley, Boise State, Idaho State and Utah State.

"You know who called Isley the other day?" asked one family member, "Mike Borich from Idaho State."

Filiaga missed the call.

Borich was one of the first to offer Filiaga a scholarship as an Arizona assistant at the Nike camp at Stanford after he witnessed his weight lifting and one-on-ones at the Nike camp in Palo Alto.

At nearly 300-pounds with a 4.9-5.0 forty, he is one of the strongest prep athletes on the west coast and possibly the country with 36 reps of 225 pounds.

He said Utah assistant coach Bush has been very aggressive in recruiting him. "Bush calls every week, sometimes twice a week," said a close family member. "Even for away games, they still call him to see how he's doing and ask if they won their game."

The success of the Utah program this year is not lost on Filiaga, who said that "Coach Bush said they were interested in me and they really, really want me. Coach Whittingham told me that back in March and Coach Bush told me in May when we went up there for the ESPN interview. He (Whittingham) said that they will always have an offer on the table for me."

"Isley has that quick twitch muscle that you want in a defensive lineman," one of his assistant high school coaches said. "If you want to compare what it takes to be a good down lineman, Isley is the one you compare him to (in the prep ranks)."

Top prep offensive linemen who have already committed to play for BYU next year – Nick Alletto from Colorado and Terence Brown from South Carolina – both matched up head-to-head against Filiaga during BYU's summer camp and made these assessments to

"He's just really strong and fast. After he did his bench press during the testing, I really didn't want to go after that," Alletto said.

Brown, who also attended camps at Nebraska and Clemson, noted, "There are guys just as good here at BYU's camp as there are at other camps I've been to. That Isley kid is really strong and pretty quick off the line."

Speaking of Nebraska, Filiaga confirmed an assistant coach from the Cornhuskers called and offered him a scholarship.

"Yeah, I think his name is Brown (Ron Brown) who called me. He's the wide receivers coach," said Filiaga.

Where does BYU fit into the recruiting puzzle?

BYU, somewhat concerned about Filiaga's academic situation, had not been as aggressive as others in recruiting Filiaga despite blow-up performances during BYU's summer camp and the Nike camp.

Despite the cautious approach by BYU, the Filiaga family still feels that BYU is the best place for their son to attend college. The fear of sending him somewhere else to play football, but lose him spiritually is a constant concern and greatest fear to his parents.

"Steve Kaufusi told me they had an offer on the table for me at the beginning of summer. Right after they watched film," Filiaga said.

Even though his play has earned him the right to takes recruiting trips, there has been talk among the Filiaga family that Isley might not take any trips to far away campuses because of the immediate need for him to stay focused academically.

Indeed, Filiaga has strict orders from his father to not talk to recruiting coaches while at school or when he is attending classes. Last year, Filiaga's cousin, Brian Soi had to avoid coaches who would simply "drop by" for a quick chat that caused a lot of classroom distractions his senior year. Soi was not academically eligible and attended a prep school in Virginia to help him prepare to pass his ACT tests this fall.

"We've debated that," said Filiaga. "My dad wants me to stay focused on school. I haven't even narrowed down all my trips. I haven't really thought about it and won't commit until LOI day."

Asked what his top three college choices are right now, he said without hesitation: "I would say Utah, Nebraska and BYU."

Since the summer, Filiaga has worked hard to get his grades squared away in the classroom so he can continue performing on the football field. Oftentimes, Filiaga spends after school hours at teammate Thor Pili's home doing homework. Thor's academically inclined mother, Lani Pili, is always available to help the boys with tutorial guidance whenever it's needed.

"She's helped me out a lot and coach (Junior) Pili as well," said Filiaga.

With the prep season coming to a close with one more game left on the schedule before the playoffs, Filiaga suffered a setback he is working to overcome. Filiaga underwent knee surgery last Thursday to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee. The injury was caused by offensive players cutting at his legs. He is on the fast track to rehabilitation, with light workouts on the bike with hopes he will be able to play in a few weeks if his team is still in the hunt for a state championship.

"It happened in the third quarter of the Lone Peak game and I played the rest of the game. It hurt, but I guess the adrenaline kept me from feeling it. After the game I ran back to the bus, but when it came time to leave I couldn't even get off the bus."

Filiaga's father, Tui, an assistant strength coach under BYU strength and conditioning coach Jay Omer, has been coordinating his son's workout routine and recovery at a local gym.

"Today I rode the bike and did a treadmill thing and almost cried," said Filiaga with a chuckle. "I did a bunch of exercises, leg extensions. The lower part of my quad is really sore."

Looking to get ready and healthy for the state championship is the main motivating force behind Filiaga's painful rehabilitation. However, his field performance this year so far has been impressive.

"I only have 11 sacks right now," said Filiaga. "I don't know about tackles for a loss, but I'm in the mid 20s for solo tackles and I have 36 assisted tackles. I looked at the stats before the Lone Peak game. I'm first in sacks on my team and I'm second in solo tackles on the team; Mike Harper is first."

Filiaga forgot to add a 50-yard interception he returned for a touchdown to that list.

© copyright by

Total Blue Sports Top Stories