Top LDS D-linemen Looking At BYU

A top LDS defensive lineman out of El Camino Junior College already has scholarship offers from Arizona, Colorado, Iowa State and Texas A&M, among others. Recently, he visited his church's college in Provo, Utah and came away very impressed.

With the graduation of a few players, along with some leaving to serve missions this year and next, BYU is in the hunt for top quality defensive line prospects to help the Cougar defense continue their on-field prowess.

The Cougar coaching staff already received a verbal commit from 6-foot-1-inch, 310-pound four-star recruit David Hola, and is waiting on a possible commit from his fellow Snow College teammate in 6-foot-1-inch, 310-pound Tevita Tufuga.

Along with Hola and Tufuga, the Cougar coaching staff has offered a scholarship to 6-foot-5-inch, 270-pound Simi Kuli out of El Camino Junior College. Kuli recently visited BYU with his mother and a few family members.

"Right now I'm 6'5" and I'm weighing in at 270," said Kuli. "I would describe my playing style as being both a speed rushing end and having power. Last season I played some defensive end and some defensive tackle. At defensive end I think I played alright. I don't think I played to the best of my abilities because I took a year off. When I got out there I felt I did a pretty decent job but I feel I can do better."

Kuli, who is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, took a year off from playing football to focus on possibly serving a mission. However, when things didn't work out, his cousin Vuna Tuihalamaka, who was playing middle linebacker at El Camino, convinced him to return to playing football.

"I was supposed to go on a church mission," Kuli said. "My sister is serving in Edmonton, Canada right now. I was going to go but I ended up staying and not going. It was already at the end of July close to August and my cousin Vuna, who is going to [the University of] Arizona, told me, ‘Man, you should come out and play man.' So I came out there to El Camino kind of late as a walk-on. I wasn't even in shape or anything. I just went out there and started playing. I know I did well but I know I can do better than that. Taking that year off, then trying to get back into football was kind of tough."

After playing one season at El Camino J.C., Kuli has received quite a bit of interest.

"Right now I've got a bunch of offers. I've got offers from Washington, Oregon, Oregon State, Cal, Oklahoma, Texas, Texas A&M, Nebraska, Miami and BYU."

Kuli recently visited BYU to check out the campus and facilities, and to meet a few of the coaches.

I just finished coming back from a trip out to BYU a week before last week," Kuli said. "I went out there and Steve [Kaufusi] gave me the tour and I met the head coach. I think he's a really good guy and he was telling me how things work and function out there.

"Man, those facilities are nice!" Kuli said. "It's just clean and really nice up there. Before I went out there they had a lot of interest in me and wanted me to come out there for a visit. When I came back they offered me and sent me the letter and everything."

Kuli did not make the trip to BYU alone.

"I went up there with my mom, my sister, my aunt and my cousin," said Kuli. "My uncle Limihai [Hifo] was telling me that BYU is a good school, and plus his daughter Kalo, my cousin, just graduated that Thursday when we came out there. I went up there with my cousin Kalo, who graduated from there. They all came up with me up to BYU when I went on my little visit.

"It was good, man, and they took me out to this little restaurant out there called Tucano's. That place is the business, man! That's where we ate before we went out and checked things out at BYU. I couldn't even walk during the tour, I was so full."

Once on campus, Kuli was able to have a personal talk with BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall.

"It was a really good experience I had up there, man. I had a really deep talk with the head coach. We were talking about the school and he's a really humble guy and a good person. It was good. We had a really deep talk about BYU. I feel I have a really close bond with him and it was really good. I enjoyed it."

As a member of the LDS faith, Kuli recognized the differences when speaking with Coach Mendenhall in comparison to other head coaches he had spoken with.

"I think he's kind of different because you know how most schools, when they recruit, they talk about stuff that sometimes isn't true?" Kuli said. "Coach Mendenhall is a straight shooter and he was talking about nothing but facts and I really enjoyed that."

Kuli saw and experienced firsthand the campus atmosphere of BYU, and feels he would be able to fit in well among the students and fellow players there.

"I would have to say what's different up there at BYU than at other schools is everyone up there shares the same standards and values," Kuli said. "For me it would be really easy to adapt to at BYU. It was clean up there. I mean, everything is clean and it was pretty much like walking into a church. It was clean like a church, man."

Kuli liked the fact there were a lot of LDS Polynesians at BYU, and also has a family member that plays for the Cougars.

"Man, there are a lot [of Polynesians] up there," said Kuli while chuckling. "Too many, man. I have family up there too. You know Harvey Unga? I'm related to him on my mom's side. I tried calling him when I was up there but I think he was busy or something."

Kuli will be checking out the University of Utah campus during an upcoming second trip to Utah. However, when he does, he plans on making a second trip over to BYU.

"Man, I'll probably be going back up there in about two weeks," Kuli said. "The next time I come up there I'm going to visit [the University of] Utah, so when I come up there I'm going to head on down and check out BYU and see their practices and stuff."

Although he has many quality college programs looking at him, Kuli isn't in too big of a hurry to commit. He wants to take his time and be sure he makes the right decision.

"Yeah, I have all of these colleges looking at me and so I'm taking my time," Kuli said. "I've got a lot of consideration for BYU and I have a lot of interest in them. It would be easy for me to come there because everyone there already has the same standards and values and I do. It would be pretty easy for me to adapt to with the environment and the social life both off the campus as well as on the field. I'm taking them seriously."

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