Recruiting Game in Full Swing for Taitusi Lutui

The recruiting game is fully afoot for one of America's most coveted junior college offensive linemen – and BYU remains a top contender for this 5-Star recruit despite its disappointing season record.

Born in Tonga and raised in Mesa, Arizona, the 6-6, 350 pound Taitusi "Deuce" Lutui took his first official recruiting visit to powerhouse Nebraska last weekend. "I got a lot of things answered and I liked it. It was a good trip actually," Lutui told "I wasn't going to have fun. It was a business trip for me like all my trips are going to be."

As a 6-4, 330-pound Arizona prep star and stud, Lutui was a "major get" for the Utah Utes, choosing the Utes over the Cougars because of better relationships he developed with then Utah assistants Steve Kaufusi (now a BYU assistant) and Gary Anderson (current head coach at Southern Utah University). He was, however, an academic non-qualifier and starred instead at Mesa Community College his freshman year where he grew into his beefed-up 6-6, 370-pound body frame with 5.1 40 speed. He transferred to Snow College in Ephraim, Utah, for his sophomore season when his Mesa head coach was fired.

It's important not to let his weight lull anyone into thinking he may be another overweight and slow lineman. Lutui is literally a one-man pancake factory with surprising speed and agility. His Snow Colleges coaches say Lutui has outstanding footwork and mobility and is extremely athletic for a man his size.

On track to graduate next spring, it's open recruiting season all over again for this man-sized hulk and BYU, USC, South Carolina, Nebraska, Arizona State, Washington, Boise State, Utah and other colleges have him high on their radar sights.

At Nebraska, Lutui said, "I talked to my position coach and head coach and everything. We just talked about what Nebraska had to offer me. It was a good offer. I had a good time. It's crazy man; that sold out crowd of 80,000 and they're going to add to the stadium."

Unlike his recruiting daze out of high school, Lutui confirmed he is older and wiser and not as easily swayed as he was as a prep star.

"In high school, I took all my recruiting trips and you become easily persuaded. Each trip I took I leaned towards that school." In contrast, "I took a trip to Nebraska and they wined and dined me. I had a good time, but that's not the reason why I would lean towards a school," Lutui said.

Education plays a more vital role in his decision-making process as he plans to pursue a degree in sociology. "One of the best parts of my (Nebraska) trip was the academics. I talked to three different professors about sociology and I also want to study criminology, too."

Besides education, Lutui paid particular attention to the environment, atmosphere, teammates, and playing time he would see immediately. He said he was highly impressed with the caliber and quality of the Cornhusker football program and the big league aspect of the Big XII conference.

Even with its limited Polynesian connections, Nebraska pulled out all its stops to introduce Lutui to another Nebraska Samoan offensive lineman from California, Vili (Dan) Waldrop. He was also introduced to a part-Samoan professor there that spoke to him about everything the university offered and accompanied him to LDS church services on Sunday.

In the final analysis, Lutui said his final decision may come down to as something as simple as family ties, a very important consideration for this highly-touted Polynesian athlete. In his regard, BYU, the first college to extend him a scholarship the second time around, has a clear advantage.

"You know, it doesn't really matter to me about their season and all," Lutui said of BYU's second consecutive losing season. "The biggest factors are that Ofa (Mohetau) and T.J. (Sitaki) are on the team." Mohetau is Lutui's second cousin and the No. 1 offensive guard high school recruit in the country last year. Sitake is another cousin and a third cousin, David (Tevita) Tafuna, a highly recruited BYU wide receiver returns from his LDS mission late next year.

Lutui and Mohetau have become very close and the two would likely start alongside each other next season at BYU if he signed with the Cougars.

While he is non-committal about where he will play next year, he shed greater light on his thoughts and perceptions about the Provo campus in a previous TBS interview.

"I like that it's different from the world. It's not like any other school in the nation with the type of kids they have. It's a pretty thing to see. I'm looking for a school with great academic and athletic support. That's the main thing."

A relatively new player on his recruiting horizon is USC and its offensive coordinator Norm Chow, a longtime former BYU coordinator under former coach LaVell Edwards.

Chow has visited and talked to Snow College colleges about Lutui. "I talked to him on the phone," said Lutui. "He's recruiting me, but I don't have anything (scholarship offer) on paper."

With their regular season over and sporting an 8-1 record, Snow College will be matched up in a post-season bowl game at Georgia against JC powerhouse Georgia Military College (GMC), which lost to BYU's junior varsity team in Provo some weeks ago.

"I'm just chillin', man; getting ready for our bowl game. We're doing good at 8-and-1." The Cougars are also actively recruiting several standout defensive players from GMC. "Don't worry, I'll handle them," Lutui joked.

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