The Bingham Boys

Two years ago, Provo, Utah's Timpview High School was home to four of the top prospects in the state, who TBS dubbed the Thunderbird Four. This year, the talent migrated north to Bingham High in South Jordan where a new quartet of gridiron warriors will intimidate opponents and entice recruiters.

BYU coaches did their due diligence and concluded that Bingham High School is Utah's new recruiting hotbed, at least that is the impression that Miner coaches and players received from the Cougar staff. Wide receiver/safety Jordan Pendleton already committed to BYU, defensive lineman Star Lotulelei has an offer from the Cougars and juniors-to-be Austin Holt and Derek Tuimauga are currently receiving attention from Provo.

"Derek was always a big kid and a good kid that always worked hard," said Bingham High School head football coach Dave Peck. "The little league coaches told me that he would be a kid that would surprise me once he gets into high school as a ninth grader. I was told he would be someone that would compete hard and I just thought, ‘Well, maybe at the sophomore level.' Before it was all said and done, he was starting for our varsity team when he was only 13 years old. He was a bit overweight but he was a smart kid and understood the game, and he really worked hard. He's only 15 right now and has started for us or two seasons. He won't turn 16 till September 30, so he really should be a grade younger."

Tuimauga brings more to the table than his 6-foot-3, 325-pound frame; the 15-year old also has impressive workout numbers. He benches 375 pounds and did 33 reps with the 185-pound bar at last week's Utah High School Football Combine; he squats 505 and runs a 5.6 forty. Tuimauga also has two years of experience starting at right tackle.

Coach Peck indicated that BYU is interested in Tuimauga, but that interest is contingent on the young offensive lineman keeping his weight in check. As a sophomore, Tuimauga played at 350 pounds. After the season, Coach Peck sat his super-sized tackle down and explained that he had to weigh closer to 300 pounds in order to play college ball.

"BYU basically said if he can get down to around 315 to 310 that he would definitely be one of the possible early offers at the end of his junior year," said Peck.

Tuimauga is working hard in the off-season to bring his weight down. He currently weighs in the 320 to 330-pound range. He intends to keep working at weight control because he wants to receive the early BYU offer.

"My number one team right now is BYU," Tuimauga said. "When I went there last Friday for junior day something just told me that this is one of the best schools to go to, and when I was there I saw that in the coaching. Other schools that I'm looking at are Oregon because they have a really good program and USC. I'm going to their camp this year to see how that goes.

BYU stands at the top of a list of interested schools that includes Utah, UNLV, California, Florida, Virginia and Arizona. Tuimauga is drawn to BYU for several reasons.

"When I went [to BYU] it was cool because all of their facilities were top of the line," said Tuimauga. "Their weight room is freaking huge, and their indoor facilities are amazing. When we were meeting with the coaches they seemed to really take it to a personal level. It seemed like they wanted to get to know everybody—all of their recruits. Everywhere you went, all the coaches knew your name, and it just makes it feel like home.

"One of the reasons why I like BYU is because I want to serve a mission. That's one of the top reasons why I like BYU. BYU is also a good school, and right now with academics I have a 3.5 GPA, and I got a 20 on the ACT. I'm going to try and get it up higher though. My mom is on me all the time to get my homework done. I think [the honor code] is a positive, too. It keeps you on track."

Even though BYU is his top choice, Tuimauga will make his decision a matter of prayer and discussion with his parents. When the time to choose finally arrives, BYU may have serious competition several big name schools.

"I know he's getting letters from Florida and Miami right now," said Coach Peck. "I don't know how serious they right now, but he's getting a lot of mail from them. He's getting letters from Oregon and Oregon State, BYU, Utah and the local schools are looking at him. He'll be attending Oregon State this weekend for their junior day or something."

Tuimauga's fellow teammate and good friend Star Lotulelei will be a big factor in Bingham's success for next season.

"Me and Star push each other in the weight room," said Tuimauga. "I can squat and bench more than him but he's got me on the clean right now.

Lotulelei plays defensive tackle and nose guard. He is around 6-foot-3 and 250 pounds with a 4.9 forty and a bench press of 315 pounds.

"When we go up against each other, we go full out," said Tuimauga. "He makes me better because he's big and quick, and I help him out too. His strengths as a player are his speed and strength. He's also a really smart player.

"He really doesn't like to play it up because he really isn't a cocky person. He's saying that he might commit to BYU but that he's just weighing in his options. I know he wants to serve a mission too, and he loves Steve Kaufusi. He said Steve Kaufusi is his hero and that he really looks up to him as a D-line coach."

Both BYU and Utah have spoken with Coach Peck about Lotulelei, who transferred from Timpanogos High School. Coach Peck said that Lotulelei turns heads in the weight room and on the field, but he may have to overcome struggles in the classroom if he wants to play at the D-I level.

Last Friday, BYU coaches were the first to offer Austin Holt, another one of Bingham's fab four. Utah followed up on Saturday morning with an offer of its own.

"Austin's 6-5 and 220 and has gone to a couple of national combines," said Coach Peck. "He was in L.A. about a month ago at a combine, and there were a bunch of big name tight end juniors out of California there. I hear he was the class of the bunch. BYU thinks he's going to be a really big time player."

Tuimauga feels a special bond with Holt because they are both in the same grade and will experience the recruiting process together.

"Me and Austin Holt are like brothers because we're both the sophomore pups on the team," said Tuimauga. "I could see it in him last year that he was going to be really good. We do everything together. We workout together to push each other to get ready for the combines and stuff like that.

"He said he is going to talk it over with his parents. I told him to wait for me and to not jump too far ahead of me, but it was just all a joke. It would be cool to have all of us playing together up at BYU. It would be cool because we're all pretty tight."

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