Tua Tagovailoa told KHON that he is down to six schools. They are Southern Cal, Texas A&M, Ole Miss, Alabama and Auburn. The latter three received unofficial visits recently.
"We wanted to get to see Alabama, Auburn and Ole Miss," Tua's father Jalu Tagovailoa said. "Those are three top SEC schools."
The visits went better than expected.
"It was totally different than what we were expecting," Jalu said. "The environment and hospitality from their people were just awesome. The biggest thing for us is the value they put in the church (family practices christianity). That's what it's all about in the deep south. All three schools had churches on their campus. It was kind of crazy. It was awesome. To be honest my son didn't want to come back. He loved it at each school. We didn't really have a chance to stay all day at Ole Miss or Auburn. We wanted to spend more time there to see everything like we did at Alabama. We'll be back to both campus' to get a better look. We flew into Tuscaloosa and stayed in Birmingham for the week. That was the closest city to all three campuses. We just traveled back and forth to each school."
Ole Miss' safety coach, Corey Batoon, has a little brother that coaches at Honolulu-Saint Louis.
"We have ties to the Batoons. Coach (Corey) Batoon at Ole Miss is a St. Louis graduate. That's how we got to know about Ole Miss. We knew about Ole Miss from the Manning's and The Blindside. It's a premier school for quarterbacks so that really caught Tua's eye. Coaches Ben (Aigamaua) and Batoon really started recruiting Tua hard. They are both from this area so they had a built in connection. Ole Miss was the first SEC school to offer my son. That's how it all started with Ole Miss."
How did the trip to Oxford go?
"We definitely want to go back and spend some more time at Ole Miss. We plan on coming back for a game this fall. We were only there for the afternoon but we really loved it, especially coach (Hugh) Freeze. He blew us away. We sat in the team meeting, and he just blew us all away. Coach Freeze is a very down to earth guy. He tells it like it is and not what you want to hear. He's very honest, and I really like that about him. I just like his leadership skills. Very genuine guy that is a great influence on the kids. You know he's a man of deep faith which is very attractive for our family. You can tell that he loves his players and takes care of them. The campus was just beautiful too. We had only seen the West Coast schools before this tour. Their campuses are nice too but the SEC campuses are the nicest we have seen so far. Their indoor football complex is the best practice facility we have seen. Everything is top notch at Ole Miss."
Most insiders are predicting that Tua will announce for the Tide on May 2nd. It makes sense being that was the campus they had the best look at during the southern swing.
"It was amazing. Coach Saban is a man with everything in place. If you want to get to the next level and win a national championship you know Alabama is a great place to be. We got to watch them practice. There were probably a 1,000 high school and junior college coaches who attended that practice. It was crazy. That was their last practice for spring training. It was just awesome to watch."
What stood out about Alabama the most during the visit?
"Everything. Coach (Lane) Kiffin is very involved with their quarterbacks. I've never seen anything like how they run their quarterbacks. How they teach them to understand coverage's and reading blitzes. We have never seen anything like their coaching style at the other schools. That's another reason we want to get back to Auburn and Ole Miss. We want to get to see them practice and see what their styles are like. But what Alabama does on the field is amazing. Coach Saban is overseeing everything. He's grinding and running from station to station like a kid. He's a lot more in shape than I am (laugh). It was just crazy to see how on top of things coach Saban is with everything. He means business. I would say coach Saban stands out the most about Alabama. I just like how involved coaches Saban and Kiffin are at their practices. They make the quarterbacks understand the game. It was a great experience for us."
The trip to the Plains was nice as well.
"We got there and took a tour of their football facilities. We talked to Gus and to their offensive coordinator. We just went over how they do things. It was nice. They have a beautiful campus and a huge stadium. But we didn't get to see everything else there on their campus. Spring practice was over. That was about it. We look forward to coming back there for a game in the fall to get a better look at everything."
What will the decision come down to?
"You have to find the right fit. We like all three offenses. Alabama has a strong running game that helps the passing game. Ole Miss slings the ball and controls the clock with their passing game. It's fast pace. Tua really likes their offense. Alabama and Ole Miss have the same style of receivers. Real tall guys who can go up and get the ball and make their quarterback look good. You don't have to be a 5-Star QB with the receivers that Alabama and Ole Miss have. All you have to do is put it in the right place. Auburn runs a similar offense to Ole Miss but they control the clock more with their running game. We know that all three schools can compete for a national championship. The biggest thing is his education and how long will it take him to get his degree. Lastly it's all about his faith. Those two factors are the most important. We know that all three schools can prep him for the next level.
Tagovailoa is expected to announce his choice on the 6 p.m. (local time) news on KHON on May 2nd. You can catch the live stream here.
Yancy Porter is the recruiting analyst for the Ole Miss Spirit and he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org