Mountain View (Calif.) St. Francis defensive tackle Tyler Manoa is used to being the big man in the middle. The 6-foot-4, 290-pounder is preparing for a first-round boy's basketball Open Division playoff tilt against Redwood City (Calif.) Sequoia on Friday, serving as the low-post-clearing center for the Lancers. Before he headed into practice on Thursday, though, he got an offer to be a big man in another, different middle -- California's defense.
Given the fact that the Bears are switching to a 3-4 from a 4-3, they're going to need a true defensive tackle, and Manoa certainly fits the bill for new defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro, with whom Manoa spent some one-on-one time during an unofficial visit this past Saturday, which he took with his cousin Viliami Fehoko, and teammates Joshua Pakola, Maurice Wilmer and Darrell Page.
"They didn't really talk to me much about their defense, but coach Azz just liked the way I play," Manoa said. "He said there was some stuff that I need to work on, but he gave me some good knowledge for this upcoming season ... They showed us around the football facilities, saw the weight room, got to meet the new coaching staff. While they were going on the tour, I sat down with coach Azz for a little bit, and then I got to talk to coach [Justin] Wilcox, and also got to talk to coach [Steve] Greatwood. It was a pretty well-rounded conversation with everyone."
Saturday wasn't Manoa's first trip to Berkeley. He visited over the summer with the old staff, and noted the differences between the old group, and the new.
"I just like the new coaching staff, just how they're really interactive, and, man, it was just great to be up there," Manoa said. "It being close to home, it was just great, all around, to meet the new coaching staff and have one-on-one conversations with the D-line and O-line coach, and the head coach, also."
Last season, Manoa started on both the offensive and defensive lines, earned WCAL Junior Player of the Year honors, was named first-team all-league, and was named to the Second-Team All-NorCal Defense. He tallied 39 tackles, 9.0 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks and a blocked field goal, picking up a safety for good measure. The Lancers run a gap-control defense, with mixed odd and even fronts, with Manoa playing either the one or the three technique, minding the A-gaps.
"[Azzinaro] likes how I can get after it," Manoa said. "He told me my motor needs to be better. He understands that I play both ways, just to get in shape. He likes the way I use my hands, and how I don't just use one [pass rush] move."
Having Azzinaro critique his motor was far from a turn-off for Manoa. If anything, he now respects the former San Francisco 49ers defensive line coach even more.
"I know I've got to work on that this year," he said. "I saw it this year, and that was something that I knew I needed to work on last year. My body just wore out by the end of the season, so this year, I want to work on that, so I can play all four quarters and not be worn down by the end of the season."
Manoa can be forgiven for being a bit worn out. He's an all-seasons athlete. After football in the fall comes hoops in the winter, and soon, he'll take his first throws as a varsity shot putter. Last year, with a 10-pound ball, he set a personal record of 48 feet.
"I haven't even touched the 12-pound ball yet, this year, so that'll be something I have to work on," Manoa said.
A proud native of Hayward, Calif., where his family has lived for 25 years, Manoa still lives in the East Bay, and wakes up at 5:30 a.m., every day, to commute down to Mountain View for school. He gets home late, between his various lifting and practice schedules, but, Manoa said, he's used to it.
Getting the true hometown offer -- Manoa's seventh -- was a notably new sensation.
"Cal's my hometown school, so it's big, and I'm so grateful," he said. "For them to notice the Bay Area talent, I'm just grateful and blessed."
Manoa -- who said his GPA is "around a 3.0" -- has been in regular contact with Marques Tuiasosopo since his visit on Saturday, through the offer on Thursday. Having a fellow Islander on staff made an impression on Manoa, a former BYU commit.
"That's big," Manoa said. "You can see the differences he's made on teams, getting those Polynesian kids to USC, UCLA, and now at Cal. We'll see. He's done good things in the past, so I don't doubt he'll do good things here at Cal."
"Cal is up there," Manoa said. "I definitely like it here, especially with it being the home school. I'm definitely going to keep them in consideration, and I love it there. They'll be one of my top schools."
Manoa will visit campus again this spring, to see Azzinaro and the Bears in action.