Tupou Shares His Top Three

Taniela Tupou already holds three offers from Division I programs and many more appear to be on the horizon, as he should prove to be one of the top LDS recruits nationally in the class of 2011. TBS caught up with Tupou to talk about which schools made his top three and what his plans are for this coming summer.

Taniela Tupou is a 6-foot-3-inch, 265-pound defensive end prospect from Archbishop Murphy High School in Everett, Washington. Having played at both defensive end and tight end for his team this past season, Tupou is receiving hordes of letters and calls. He also has three offers with many more likely on the way.

Having made a few unofficial visits while becoming more and more familiar with the several schools that have shown interest, he's been able to form a top-three list during the early stages of his recruitment process.

"My top three are Washington, Oregon and BYU," informed Tupou. "Those aren't in order and they're all pretty much interchangeable, but those are my top three schools right now in my mind."

Washington was the first school to offer him a scholarship, and he's grown fond of the Husky coaching staff and other aspects of their program.

"I really like Washington's coaching staff," said Tupou. "I love that they have top academics there, which is important to me. Education-wise, Washington is a top school. I also like that they're so close to home. That's a big thing for me. I like the atmosphere there and I really feel comfortable with Coach Sarkisian and the rest of the staff."

Meanwhile, Tupou was in Oregon when TBS talked with him on Monday, and he will be making his first unofficial visit to the University of Oregon on Tuesday.

"Oregon is also close to home, which I like a lot," he said. "I like the coaching staff and I like the feel of the campus and the city where it's at so far. It sort of reminds me of Hawaii and I like that a lot. I like having a sort of slower and mellow pace to things. I think Oregon has that and I'm anxious to learn more of them tomorrow while I'm here."

Although he moved to Washington when he was only six years of age, Tupou has strong ties to the state of Hawaii after having visited there almost every summer to stay with his grandparents. The type of small-town, laid-back atmosphere that he relishes doesn't exist at some of the schools that he's seen up close.

"I went down to USC and to UCLA and I really didn't like how fast stuff was down there," he observed. "Everything is rushed and in a hurry there and I don't like that kind of pace. I like a mellow pace of things. That's important for me in a school. I want to go to a place where I can be myself."

Third, but not least on Tupou's early short, list is BYU.

"I'm LDS, so BYU will always be a school I'll strongly consider," he said. "I haven't visited their campus yet, but I've spoken to Coach Mendenhall and with Coach Reynolds and they're both great guys and great men. I feel very comfortable with both of them and Coach Reynolds has been out here to see me, so I really like the attention they've shown me so far."

BYU was the third school to officially offer Tupou, with Washington and Washington State being the first and second, respectively. Beyond what he's learned about BYU from the coaching staff there, he's also gained unique insight from a close cousin.

"Fono Vakalahi is my cousin and seeing the change that he's had since going to BYU is really great," he explained. "Fono was always a good kid, but he wasn't someone you'd ever think was going to serve a mission. But after seeing how much he's grown in the Church and now that he's saving money to serve a mission, that's just a really great thing and shows me that BYU is a great atmosphere that helps you be a better person, which is definitely something I want in a school."

Tupou is very active in the LDS Church and has mission plans of his own.

"The number one thing for me with any school is how they will respect and work with my mission plans," he said. "So far it's great. I spoke with Coach Sarkisian in his office and not only did he say that he'd respect my plans, but that he thought it was great that I was serving one and that it would be a great opportunity for me to grow. Oregon is the same way and obviously BYU will work with my mission plans. Mission service is very important to me, so it's great that all the schools that are recruiting me will respect my plans."

Tupou will likely play a year before leaving for his planned mission. He'll turn 19 in December of his freshman year, which makes for ideal timing in regards to having plenty of time to best recondition himself upon his return.

During the recruiting process he also wants to learn more about Washington State, as he was impressed that their head coach went out to visit with him personally.

"I just don't know a lot about Washington State yet," said Tupou. "I want to learn more about them and from everyone else who is recruiting me, especially those that have offered me a scholarship."

This summer will be a busy one for Tupou, as he has plans to attend the All-Poly Camp, Oregon's team camp, the Nike combine held at BYU, Washington's Rising Star camp, and others.

"I just want to take closer looks at the schools that have offered me or are recruiting me hard to help me decide which school to commit to," he summed up. "I don't have a specific time as to when I want to decide, and I've thought that I could wait until letter of intent day, but when I decide, then that will be it. I don't know when that will happen, but if I feel strong enough that I need to commit to any of the schools I'm considering, then I'll commit."

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