The recruiting interest is starting to ratchet up for Broadneck (Annapolis, Md.) inside linebacker Ali'i Niumatalolo, the son of Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo. The Broadneck backer landed his first verbal from Connecticut in early March, and is consistently hearing from programs such as Boise State, Utah, Utah State, Wake Forest, East Carolina, Maryland and others. He’s even had contact with SEC stalwarts like Alabama, Ole Miss and LSU, all three of which he plans to camp at later this offseason.
“The Connecticut offer was a huge offer for me with it being my first one. I was really excited about it,” said the 6-foot-2, 230-pound Niumatalolo, whose brother, Va’a, plays at BYU. “I think UConn is moving in the right direction as a program and I’ll be getting up to check them out [March 28]. Then I think Boise State should be my second offer since their coaches told me they’d offer once I got to campus, and [the coaches] from Utah and Utah State said the same thing.”
Thus, by mid-April, Niumatalolo could have about four solid offers in toe, but he said most interested FBS programs want to see how he performs in camp before pulling the trigger. Niumatalolo said at Broadneck his primarily responsibility is to line up right over the gaps and plug holes and/or rush the passer, so he’s had little experience defending in space.
“So most of these schools want to see what I can do in coverage, just dropping back and defending the flats,” Niumatalolo said. “Alabama, Ole Miss, LSU, they all want to see me run and play in space. They know I can tackle and fill, but they want to see how I read and react in coverage. So I’ll be going to a bunch of camps this summer to show [staffs] what I can do.”
Niumatalolo said he’ll “definitely” be attending one-days at Bama, LSU and Ole Miss, in addition to Maryland, Wake Forest, BC, UVA and others.
Before camp season, though, he’ll be taking a few campus visits this spring, starting with Storrs, Conn., March 28. A day later, Niumatalolo will be in Chestnut Hill, Mass., to see Boston College, followed by Boise State April 4. The Broadneck product also plans to check out Maryland in early April before heading back out West for trips to Utah and Utah State April 11-12.
“I’m really open to playing wherever; location isn’t a big factor for me,” Niumatalolo said. “But I do kind of like it out West because I’m Mormon and there’s a lot more Mormons out that way. But, honestly, that’s not a huge deal; I’m open to playing where I’m needed and wanted.”
That includes nearby Maryland, the school just 30 minutes from his home. Niumatalolo had been in touch with former UMD linebackers coach Keith Dudzinski, but he’s since heard from area recruiter John Dunn.
“Coach Dunn has just started getting to know me, but I like him. We’ve exchanged some messages and he seems like a really good guy, and he wants to get to know me and get me on campus,” Niumatalolo said. “I like all the coaches up at Maryland, to be honest. Coach Dudzinski was great, and the rest of them are really welcoming guys too.”
Niumatalolo has visited College Park, Md., twice, most recently for the UMD-West Virginia football game last fall. He attempted to return several times during the offseason, but hasn’t been able to thus far.
“I definitely want to get back [to UMD]. I’ve been on campus a couple times before, and I really like it,” Niumatalolo said. “It’s nice facilities, they’re doing a lot of upgrades and it’s a good program and good school. And it’s only like a half-hour away, and I know my mom would love for me to go there so she could see me play all the time.”
Although Niumatalolo is interested in the Terps, he said a UMD offer wouldn’t necessarily be a game-changer. He’s cognizant of the DMV-to-UMD movement and wouldn’t mind being apart of that, but noted how he’s open to other potential suitors as well.
The SEC, in particular, is a goal of his.
“I’d love to play in that conference – it’s the best in college football,” Niumatalolo said. “So I’m going to be going to some camps at Alabama, LSU, Ole Miss and see what comes of it.”
Niumatalolo said he’d ideally like to have his college decision made before his senior year, but only if he has desired options on the table. Otherwise, he’ll wait to send out senior film in order to cull out more interest/offers from college football’s upper tier.
“I’m really looking forward to impressing in these camps and hopefully getting some offers from those,” Niumatalolo said. “I’m working on my combine numbers, and the No. 1 thing is just improving my running and flexibility so I can show that I can play in coverage. That’s really the main thing – showing that I can play in space.”
Niumatalolo Sees Uptick In Interest
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