Mark Smith: Vili may be the most dominant defensive player I've ever coached at the high school level. His best football is ahead of him. What comes to mind about him is that just two years ago, he was a lean junior – about 6-2, 210 pounds – and he's 6-5 and 260 right now. I don't think he's anywhere close to filling out yet. I think his potential and ability to dominate a game, especially at the high school level, was remarkable. He really changed the way people had to play against us to make sure they were nowhere near him. I think he's got the most potential of any defensive player that I've ever coached.
What do you think will be the biggest transition for him moving from the high school game to the Big 12 Conference?
Mark Smith: I think for him, it's a matter of continuing to develop – his strength, his speed, his knowledge of the defense and of the pace and tempo he's going to see in the Big 12. I think it's going to be a matter of when he can be comfortable knowledge-wise with what's going on. I think the ability will be there.
Do you think he has a chance to make an instant impact or will there be an adjustment period for him?
Mark Smith: Vili has more of an opportunity to make more of an immediate impact. But you never know how they develop over the summer and what the situation is going through fall camp. But walking off campus here at L.D. Bell, he has the opportunity to make an immediate impact, I would think.
Why do you think he chose Oklahoma State?
Mark Smith: He had been committed to Utah for a long time. But his relationship with former defensive coordinator and line coach, Bill Young, really was meaningful to him. I think he continued his line of communication with Oklahoma State because of his relationship with coach Young. Now that coach Young is out, coach (Glenn) Spencer and coach Clemens picked up where he left off. He just felt as comfortable with those guys as he did with coach Young. At the end of the day, I think he just felt more comfortable with those people and the environment there than he did anywhere else.
What do you think he is capable of accomplishing over the course of his college career at OSU?
Mark Smith: I could see Vili as being an All-Big 12 guy, (and) a guy that gets drafted to play in the NFL. Of course, that's a huge projection for me, and I have not said that with other guys before. But he could be the guy who ends up having an NFL career if he continues to develop and do the things with the potential that he has.
What will you remember the most about coaching him?
Mark Smith: Just his leadership, especially on the defensive side of the ball. And the positive energy and the attitude he had at practice every day – how what he did rubbed off on his teammates. He was always a lead by example kind of guy. He just represented himself and our team with the highest of class and character. We're just going to miss everything about him.