Jay Tufele clearly won’t be the biggest defensive lineman in Saturday’s U.S. Army All American game, but he is making a strong case for the distinction of the best one. The South Jordan (Utah) Bingham star has been unblockable at times thanks to his impressive blend of speed and quickness.
“I feel like my game has grown a lot,” Tufele said. “Over the year from The Opening until now I feel like I’ve gotten a lot better and it has been pretty fun.” “It’s been a blessing. Not everyone experiences this. Meeting all of these new people, coaches… it’s awesome learning form the best coaches and learning new things. It has really been awesome.”
Army week has provided Tufele a brief respite from a competitive recruitment that has reached its final stretch. The four-star defensive lineman recently narrowed his list to BYU, Michigan, Ohio State, USC, and Utah. The latter two of that quintet will receive official visits on January 20th and January 27th respectively. Michigan and Ohio State received theirs during the fall and confirmed what he has always said about the role distance will play in his decision-making process.
“It was never a factor,” he reiterated. “For me going away or going home… it’s either one. It’s just at the end of the day it is going to be wherever best fits me… that’s where I’m going to go.”
Tufele’s father went with him on those visits and gained his own appreciation for those far-away locales, but he mother didn’t. Her feel for those schools and their coaches has come from in-home visits.
“My mom just wants to know it’s the best school that fits me,” said Tufele. “She always tells me she would love to have me stay home, but at the same time she knows that wherever I think is best for me that’s where she wants me to go to.”
“I’d say (she connected with) coach (Larry) Johnson (from Ohio State) when he came out to church with me and my mom. My mom is really strong in the church and having him over there was really cool.”
“Greg Mattison and Jim Harbaugh – those are some really cool guys. They came out to a home visit and Coach Harbaugh actually came to my school. One of my teachers saw him, so he grabbed him and he did a lecture at my school. All the kids were going crazy. He is a really good guy. When they came to my home visit he was just a normal guy. He took off his shoes and everything and sat down. (Laughter). He just made himself at home. So, it was really awesome having them there. (Him) and Greg Mattison are some really good coaches.”
Further helping Michigan’s cause in this race is Tufele’s relationship with junior defensive lineman Bryan Mone.
“I really know Bryan Mone really well,” he said. “He was my host when I was at Michigan. Talking with him and talking with him about his experience going away (from) home) … it just made me feel better about going, exploring new places, and just wanting to go out of state.”
Whether he decides to go out of state or not will ultimately come down to “feel.”
“I want to know if it’s the right place for me, not (just) athletically, but (also) academically,” said Tufele. “The coaches… I’ve got to have some good coaches, and I know all of the schools I have in my top five will be the best coaches.” “(The decision is going to be made) through ponder and prayer. Through ponder, prayer, and talking to my family. That’s about it.”