Get to Know 2016: Lokeni Toailoa

Feb. 24 -- He's the #1 inside linebacker prospect in the west for 2016, and would fulfill a huge need at the position for UCLA. He's also very reminiscent of a recent Bruin great...

Toailoa is the #1 middle linebacker in the west for 2016, and the #2-ranked prospect at that position in the nation. The easiest way to describe him is: Eric Kendricks. Toailoa is very similar to Kendricks in many ways. They’re about the same height, with Toailoa at about 6’0.5”. Toailoa is probably a little heavier at the same stage, at probably about 215. He has just decent straight ahead speed, not lightning fast, and good lateral quickness, and while you wouldn’t label him an athletic freak, he probably ranges from sideline to sideline better than anyone in the west. Like Kendricks, Toialoa is tough and loves to hit, and what really makes him similar is his instinct for the game and the position. He sniffs out plays well in advance and has a knack for finding the ballcarrier’s seam. He might be a little more advanced at the same stage in pass coverage, with very good ball skills (often used on offense at his high school). The thing about Kendricks that really set him apart was his commitment and dedication to getting better, and that’s an intangible that not many prospects will ever be able to match. Toailoa, though, has shown some indications that he’s got a drive to improve, already showing advancement in his game in terms of his body and game knowledge. Given that UCLA has a big need at middle linebacker in 2016 after unfortunately missing on its top two targets at the spot for 2015, Toailoa could be one of UCLA’s top priorities for 2016, regardless of position.

The long-held feeling is that Toailoa is a UCLA lean. UCLA has been on him longer and harder than any other school, while USC has had him as a top target on their board for a while, too. The Trojans are going to put up a big fight, and have already schmoozed him for their Junior Day. He’ll also get hit hard by Notre Dame and Stanford, and probably many other elite programs heading into fall. The word, though, at least at this point, is that it more than likely will be a UCLA/USC battle. UCLA’s former defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich going to the Atlanta Falcons will be something UCLA will have to overcome, since Toailoa was close with Ulbrich. He has said that he wants to play with his brother, an unranked 2016 safety prospect, Leni Toailoa, in college, and that could be a factor. Leni doesn’t have a scholarship offer to date, but Washington is recruiting him, so that could help the Huskies, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see either UCLA or USC potentially offer Leni at some point to help them with Lokeni. Toailoa is close with former Rialto Carter and current Bruin, defensive tackle Kenny Clark, so that will definitely help. We expect we’re going to hear that Toailoa wavers back and forth between UCLA and USC for the next 11 months.

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