Four-star linebacker Lokeni Toailoa committed to UCLA last March and on Wednesday, almost 10 months later, his recruitment ends, as the Rialto (Carter) product will enroll at UCLA and begin classes.
"I'm really excited," Toailoa said. "I've been looking forward to this moment for a long time. The fact that it's finally here, right now, this moment, it's huge.
Toailoa didn't enroll on Monday because he's participating in the UnderArmour All-American Game and was given permission by UCLA to take a couple of extra days before coming to school. He said the experience of participating in the All-American game was a valuable one that will help him at UCLA.
"The experience out here was great," Toailoa said. "UnderArmour really took care of us, on the field and off the field. It was really great, competing with the best of the best, it's a great preparation for college. A lot of the guys here are going into school and will start as true freshmen, so this was a great experience to get to go up against guys like that, and I think it'll help me going into college."
Enrolling early was a priority for Toailoa, who sees it as not only an opportunity to get ahead of the game in football, but also academically.
"Being able to come in early is huge, it's a great advantage, not only for the football aspect of it, but the academic aspect of it," Toailoa said. "We're coming in six or seven months earlier than the other freshmen. We'll have a leg up on getting the playbook down, getting the UCLA system down, and then getting used to college classes and academics. It's going to be a huge advantage that I hope will pay off in the long run."
The "we" Toailoa refers to includes his brother Leni Toailoa, who is also enrolling early.Though the two brothers made it a priority to try to go to the same school, they will try to go their separate ways to an extent upon arrival.
"We're not going to live together," Lokeni said, laughing. "We're definitely going to try to meet new people. That's the plan."
This week was a tumultuous one for another reason, with several reports linking Jim Mora to various open NFL jobs. Toailoa said he heard from Mora, who said he's not going anywhere.
"He told me a million times on my in-home visit and on my official visit that he wasn't leaving," Toailoa said. "That was a big question. After every season, he always has a bunch of NFL offers coming in, but he assured me again that he wasn't leaving and the rest of the coaching staff assured us that he wasn't leaving, so that's where we stand right now."
This recruiting class is fairly tightly knit, with many of the players participating on a group chat, and this has been the hot topic on the chat for the last few days.
"We all 100% believe that he's not going anywhere," Toailoa said. "We're on a group message, there's like 20 of us, and we've all been talking about this lately. We trust the coaches and what they've been telling us, and what Coach Mora has told us."
In the hypothetical where Mora or another coach did leave, Toailoa had some pretty expansive thoughts about what that would mean for his recruitment.
"Earlier in the process, it would make me reconsider, but it's kind of too late now," Toailoa said. "As far as everything else, they do say to commit to the university and not the coach or the program, but it's kind of hard not to, while you're going through the process. It's easier said than done. You want to go in and play for a guy who knows what he's doing and has the experience, who's an incredible source of information. The NFL experience that Coach Mora has is going to help you if you are blessed with the chance to go on to the next level. The experience he has and the ties he has is a huge factor in helping you determine whether you have a chance to play at the next level or not. So that's definitely a big factor when you're picking a school."
Even with that noise swirling about, Toailoa spent a good portion of his weekend recruiting heavily for the Bruins.
"Oh, man, I was trying to recruit everybody," Toailoa said. "I didn't care if they were already committed, what position they play, or if they even had an offer, I was gassing UCLA to the max. Every defensive lineman I came across. I was trying to get Rashan Gary, everybody, even though they're not going there, I wasn't going down without a fight.