From Breiden Fehoko and Canton Kaumatule to Osa Masina and Porter Gustin, the Mountain/Island Region saw a surge of recruiting action in the past cycle that had never been seen before. LSU, Florida State, Ohio State, and other powerhouse programs enter a region that was in the past, primarily recruited by the Pac-12 with a few other P5 programs swooping in, now and then. States like Utah and Hawaii pumped out D1 talent like never before, Nevada was headlined by a star-studded Bishop Gorman program, and even states like Wyoming and Idaho produced a few highly sought after D1 prospects. The class of 2015 was more of an anomaly than the norm, right?
The class of 2016 has some impressive talent. Headlined Murray (UT) four-star defensive end Maxs Tupai, Kaiser (HI) four-star offensive guard Michael Eletise, Brighton (UT) four-star wide receiver Simi Fehoko, and Fairview (CO) four-star defensive end Carlo Kemp, there are a handful of prospects that are coveted from schools across the D1 landscape. Yet, from a comparative standpoint, the class of 2016 doesn't stack up too well with last year's juggernaut of a class.
And then there was the class of 2017...
There have been seven Scout four-stars from the Mountain Region since last summer. Here's a quick hitter on who they are and what make made them an early four-star prospect.
The Gorman Trio: Alize Jones, Cordell Broadus, Nicco Fertitta, Jackson Perry, and Nela Otukolo were all major contributors in the powerhouse program out of Las Vegas. But, when looking at bit deeper at the Bishop Gorman run, it was the stout class of sophomores that fueled the beast in 2014.
When Tate Martell took over at quarterback, the Gaels entire season changed. Unless it was an eye test being done by Drew Brees and Russell Wilson, Martell would more than likely fail. We don't care. When looking at what separates a good QB from a great one, more often than not it's the IQ they display on the field. Very few high school quarterbacks see the field like Martell, the four-star is the general on the gridiron and that is never in question. He is always a step or two ahead of the competition and just has that "it-factor". Martell could shred defenses with his legs, but he rarely has to, due to his strong and accurate arm. He is off to a nice start this off-season, leading his team to the Pylon 7v7 championship, slicing and dicing a handful of elite teams from around the country in the process.
Martell's right hand man and adopted brother, Tyjon Lindsey, is arguably the top prospect in Nevada's class of 2017. The dynamic slot receiver is also undersized, but has elite quickness and plays with a chip on his shoulder. Lindsey has that special play-making ability, where he can take any bubble screen or punt return to the house. He is a highlight reel waiting to happen and is already one of the best inside receivers in the country. If he can improve his straight line speed a little bit, he will be a nightmare. Lindsey told Scout he is hoping to run "around a 10.5" in the 100 meter this year. If the four-star receiver can reach his goal... look out.
It only seems right that Gorman's other initial 2017 four-star is another guy that is undersized. Alex Perry is an early Arizona State commit and has a skill-set that translates well to the next level. The four-star cornerback has great feet, quick hips, and loves to play physical. As he continues to grow, Perry should only get better. He has had the opportunity to practice against some of the top receivers out West the past few years, and as a result, he locks it down on game day. Scout has seen Perry a number of times, and we have yet to see a pass completed on him.
In The Trenches: Historically, the Mountain/Island Region is known for producing strong linemen, and 2017 is no exception.
Gorman isn't the only school in Las Vegas producing talent. Greg Rogers, the Centennial HS four-star defensive tackle, is proof of that. Rogers has a big powerful frame and is an explosive athlete. As he gets stronger and more flexible, the standout sophomore could become unstoppable. Rogers is a student of the game and his best days should be well ahead of him.
Langi Tuifua is another early four-star in the trenches. The Bingham (UT) defensive end showed an explosive twitch off the end that very few 14-15 year old athletes have. As a freshman, Tuifua blocked a half dozen kicks/punts and he continued to expand his game as a sophomore. Tuifua is still primarily dominating off of raw athleticism, but once he hones his technique and packs on muscle, he should be a force off the edge. He played his sophomore season at 200-205 pounds, but has a frame that could easily hold 240+. That's a scary thought for opposing quarterbacks.
The Athletes: Along with the Bishop Gorman trio, Scout identified three other Mountain Region prospects at skill positions as early 2017 four-stars.
Sione Heimuli-Lund could end up playing a number of positions at the next level. As of now, he projects as a linebacker, but has the ability to be a powerback at the next level too. If Heimuli-Lund continues to grow, he could also emerge as a defensive end. He was one of the most productive athletes in Utah last fall, leading a loaded Brighton team on both sides of the ball. Heimuli-Lund has four-star potential at four different positions, LB, RB, FB, and DE. There aren't too many sophomores with that kind of versatility and potential.
Chaz Ah You ended up playing quarterback his sophomore year, out of necessity for his team. He showed flashes at QB, but there is no question that Ah You will be making his money on the defensive side of the ball. As of now, the four-star projects best at free safety, but has the genetics and frame to grow into a strong safety or even an outside linebacker down the road. Ah You is a rangy athlete, with good ball skills, and a quarterback's IQ, which is always valuable on defense. Like Heimuli-Lund, Ah You's genes are a bit of a wildcard.
Dylan McCaffrey is arguably the top prospect in Colorado right now. The Valor Christian quarterback has been on a growth spurt for the past two years and is around 6-5 right now. He isn't the same athlete that his brothers are, but he has a big time arm. McCaffrey can make all the throws and is deceptively mobile. The 2017 four-star QB should continue to get better as he gets stronger and potentially faster. All of the McCaffrey's have been very good prospects, but Dylan might be the best.
The New Four-Stars
Three is good, but four is better... Bishop Gorman defensive end, Haskell Garrett, adds to the Gaels highly touted 2017 class. You could make a good argument that Garrett was the best player on the defensive side of the ball last year. He finished his sophomore campaign second on the team in tackles (79), first in TFLs (20.5), sacks (11.5), fumble recoveries (4), and defensive touchdowns (2).
While the productivity is impressive, and what you like to see from a top prospect, it doesn't begin to do Garrett justice. He plays the game with bad intentions. He has a great get-off that most offensive linemen can't keep up with. It is rare that Garrett does get engaged, but when that happens, he is quick to shed the block. His motor is always running full throttle. He is a nightmare in the backfield and has the ability to hawk down running backs and quarterbacks from behind. As Garrett continues to add strength, he should only become better and better. You'd like to see him grow another few inches, but even at 6-2, Garrett will be one of the top defensive linemen in the country.
Jay Tufele is arguably the top sophomore in Utah right now. The four-star defensive tackle plays next to Langi Tuifua on the stout Bingham line. Tufele looks like a true nose tackle, but has the ability to play anywhere on the line. He is deceptively athletic and moves really well for somebody hovering around 300 pounds.
While Tufele does a tremendous job eating double teams and allowing linebackers to make plays, he is a lot more than that. He is very good at shedding blocks and uses his hands at a level that a lot of college tackles couldn't dream of. The sky's the limits for Tufele. He has plenty of room to grow and a few years in the weight room will make him truly unstoppable.
Scout had the opportunity to see Tufele six times in 2014 and the sophomore seemed to get better with each game. Against Bishop Gorman and Booker T Washington, Tufele showed flashes of greatness. Going against in-state programs, the four-star DT was a rock up front. He is just starting to tap into his potential. He has some five-star characteristics, and could become that guy down the road, if he puts in the work.
There are not too many guys that look like Moretti at his age, but he is a lot more than just the pretty frame. He pulls well, moves like he is a 225 pound tight end, and packs a nasty punch. Moretti has a chance to be one of the best offensive linemen to come out of the Centennial State in quite sometime. From a talent standpoint, names like Alex Kozan come to mind, but Moretti could end up better, due to his frame.
Look for the four-star tackle's recruitment to blow up this summer.
Tua Tagovailoa is going to be one of the most heavily sought after quarterbacks, when it is all said in done. The Saint Louis (HI) gunslinger has all the tools to be a very good QB at the next level. He has a strong arm, but is also accurate on his throws. When he took over at QB, the entire season changed for St. Louis.
He has grown this off-season, recently weighing in at 216 pounds. It's not hard to imagine Tagovailoa at 6-2 to 6-3 and 230 pounds. That's a scary thought. The four-star QB has wheels as well, proving to be a dangerous dual-threat. With his big arm, above-average football IQ, thick frame, and speed, Tagovailoa is the perfect quarterback in the evolving spread offense that is prevalent across college football these days.
Like Martell, you can see the "it-factor" within Tagovailoa. He has a quiet and calm demeanor off the football field, but once he steps between the lines, he is a different person. He is ultra competitive and a true student of the game. It is easy to see where the Marcus Mariota comparisons are coming from, but the southpaw slinger is a different player. Tagovailoa will be writing his own legacy.
As always Scout will keep you posted. Keep an eye on the emerging Mountain/Island Region stars...