Late in the recruiting cycle, the new coaching staff of Oregon's Willie Taggart and the tried and true staff of Utah's Kyle Whittingham took turns trying to sway Pago Pago (A.S.) Leone outside linebacker Juliano Falaniko from his commitment to USC.
But on Wednesday, Falaniko signed his National Letter of Intent and faxed it in not to Taggart or Whittingham, but to Clay Helton and the Trojans' coaching staff, solidifying his spot in the 2017 recruiting class.
With his actions, Falaniko helped break a bit of new ground. While USC All-American nose guard George Achica and offensive lineman Titus Tuiasosopo were both born in American Samoa, the only Trojan letterwinner from the small Pacific island that is closer to Sydney, Australia than Los Angeles was defensive tackle Travis Tofi.
Listed at 6-foot-4, 200 pounds, Falaniko seems like an obvious redshirt candidate, but with USC's minimal outside linebacker numbers, it is possible that Falaniko could get thrust into the mix sooner rather than later if a couple of injuries hit. He still is very raw with a lot to learn technique wise, but he has the desire and passion to be a terror on special teams and eventually coming off the edge as a pass rusher.
Falaniko loves to hit, so much so that he was thrown out of the all-star Polynesian Bowl in Hawaii after drawing two personal foul penalties, including one for turning himself into a missile when he launched himself at an offensive player.
He is the No. 1 rated player from American Samoa and the No. 28 outside linebacker. While Falaniko will be the only American Samoan on the team, USC has collected a host of talented Polynesian players in the last two draft cycles, including Hawaiian linebacker Jordan Iosefa, who was a three-star outside linebacker recruit, but moved inside. Iosefa could be a good example of Falaniko after he was able to come in and contribute immediately on special teams and now has the inside track to take over Michael Hutchings' middle linebacker spot next season.
Check out these Juliano Falaniko highlights:
Also, check out our quick glance at the 2017 USC Trojans recruiting class to see the latest updates on who has signed.
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