Mahina Focuses on Recruiting

BYU has very few scholarships left on the table, but one of the coveted remaining offers is held by 6-foot-6, 230-pound Upland, California product Devin Mahina. The two-way starter has offers from three BCS schools and one program ranked in the top 20. He has already visited two schools and will take his final two trips in the weeks to come.

Devin Mahina is a two-way starter with scholarship offers from Colorado, Oregon, UCLA and BYU. Mahina plays both tight end and defensive end in high school, but he is expected to play tight end.

"I had around 25 catches for like 400 yards," Mahina said. "Actually in one game, I had around four catches for 150 yards. It was pretty crazy because I broke an 86 yarder. I scored four touchdowns this year."

On defense, Mahina faired very well from his defensive end spot.

"I think I had like 40 tackles," Mahina said. "I also had six sacks. I almost had an interception from a tip ball. I had a safety and a lot of block punts; I had four."

With Upland High School's season over after a 6-4 season, Mahina is putting behind him a season full of off-field turmoil that left his senior season less than what he expected.

"We didn't even make the playoffs," Mahina said. "We went six and four, but I did pretty good. I did the best that I could with what our coaches gave me. I do feel this year ended up not quite how I wanted it to be because of the coaching situation we had and the play-calling."

Prior to the season, several new coaches joined the Upland staff, which shook things up within the program. Some conflicts arose between those that remained from the old staff and those that came in.

"My old coach had been coaching for 11 years at this school," said Mahina. "I saw what they did with John Reese (2006 Oregon State tight end from Upland High School), and I thought I would be used in the same way. Our coaches last year used him a lot and he was their main guy. I just felt after that I would have been used in much the same way. I know I go both ways but still, I wasn't that tired."

Mahina feels that much of the lack of on-field performance was due to the coaching drama.

"When we got our new coaches there was a lot of behind the scenes drama," said Mahina. "You know how it can be if there are new coaches brought in with old coaches, and the old coaches feel they've been there and know what they're talking about."

Being young and one of the top tight end prospects in the state of California can be both a blessing and a burden. For Mahina, the recruiting pressures grow as the pile of recruiting letters mounts higher and higher.

Mahina said he has reported 4.0 GPA and a 1350 on the SAT. With his academics in order and his athletic abilities garnering him a four-star rating, the recruiting pressure is heating up and the stress mounting.

"It is [stressful], I think it's more stressing for my parents than me though," said Mahina. "They're getting tired of all the letters every day. We actually got more than a shoe box full."

An intelligent, soft-spoken Tongan athlete whose father hails from the islands of Va'vau, Tonga, Mahina got a chance to get away from all the recruiting pressure when he and his family visited the island kingdom earlier this year.

"It was good man, I didn't want to come home," said Mahina. "We went to both Tongatapu and Va'vau. Our immediate family lives on Tongatapu and then we went back to my dad's village in Va'vau."

Following his visit to the land of his father, Mahina has started staking recruiting trips.

"I've gone to Colorado and Oregon so far," Mahina said. "Colorado is nice, really nice. It's beautiful with nice surroundings. I don't think there was really anything bad I could say about it."

The clean air and green scenery of Colorado and Oregon made both his trips pleasant. At Oregon, Mahina felt welcomed and learned he has a cousin [Fenuki Tupou] who is currently on the Duck team. BYU is recruiting Fenuki's younger brother, defensive tackle Christian Tupou, from Grant Union High School in Sacramento.

"It was nice and a lot better than the smog down here," Mahina said of Oregon. "I felt welcomed and there's a lot of Poly's up there. I found out that I have a cousin that's playing up there. He's a transfer from a JC"

Earlier in the season, there were reports that UCLA was a favorite because of the proximity of the school to home, however, the Mahina family is allowing Devin to make his own decision based on what is best for him.

"It's kind of a mutual feeling," said Mahina. "[My parents] said that they don't want me to go somewhere where I don't feel comfortable, where I'm going to be spending the next five years at, so they just feel that I'll do the right thing and that I'll make the right decision for myself."

Feeling at home and in an environment that is both comfortable and familiar is a big factor in Mahina's evaluation process.

"I want to go to a place where I fit in and feel at home," Mahina said. "I'm heading up to BYU on January 13th. I have BYU and UCLA left. I not sure when I go on my trip to UCLA. I think it's either next weekend or the week after that."

There were earlier reports that UCLA did not have a scholarship available for Mahina, and the UCLA coaching staff had asked him to greyshirt first prior to leaving on a LDS mission.

"They have a scholarship offer for me," said Mahina of UCLA. "When I go up there, that's one thing I want to ask them about. That's what I want to do any ways. Whatever college I pick that's what I'm going to do, I'm going to greyshirt."

The purpose of greyshirting one year prior to serving a mission is so that Mahina will have a redshirt year available following his mission to get himself back into shape and football preparedness. Mahina makes sure that he lets college coaches know of his plans to first serve an LDS mission.

"`I try to let coaches know ahead of time that I'm for sure going on a mission," said Mahina. "I tell them that I'm going to go on a mission and they'll either take me or they don't. Most of the coaches have told me that they seem okay with it, and that they don't have a problem with it."

One aspect that Mahina likes about BYU is that the LDS missionary program is already woven into the program, and the bait and switch tactics sometimes used by college coaches to sign LDS athletes who want to serve a mission is not an issue. This is something Mahina already understands.

"They know how to handle my mission situation," Mahina said. "They know my spiritual needs as well as my physical needs. I think the difference between BYU, Oregon and Colorado is, they don't know where I'm coming from. They think they do but they really don't, you know. I just think the coaches at BYU know how to handle LDS kids and know what it's like to be LDS. They know what's expected and all that."

Mahina knows that at BYU there is an established environment for LDS athletes and students since BYU is owned by the to which he belongs. The familiarity and comforts of being LDS at BYU is something Mahina has already felt while visiting there in past years.

"I went to BYU as a sophomore and then I went there last year," said Mahina. "I went there for a camp and then I went down there for Junior Day. I felt good there, and I felt at home. I just know that it's not an issue being Mormon there because just about everyone there is Mormon. I not there won't be any persecution there I guess, and just know that everyone there is like me."

Another aspect of BYU that Mahina likes is how involved the tight ends are within the offense. On a recent home visit, BYU assistant coach Patrick Higgins had a chance to talk to Mahina about BYU's offense, and answer any questions that he might have.

"I like the way BYU runs their offense," said Mahina. "I do like the way they use their tight ends. They use one two and three tight ends in their offense; they use them all. Coach Higgins came over to my house and we talked about that.

"We were talking and I was just asking questions about the offense. I already knew and heard that Jonny [Harline] had around 70 catches, I think, last year or two years ago. I know he had like a big year with around 70 catches and I was like, wow. That means they really use the tight end."

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