Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota is a leading candidate for freshman of the year in college football and Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o might well be the top defensive player.
That the two went to schools, Saint Louis and Punahou, not much more than a couple long field goals apart here apparently isn’t lost on far-flung mainland recruiters as the Feb. 6 National Letter of Intent day approaches.
Which is why, as University of Hawaii coaches continue to hit the recruiting trail during this open week in the schedule, they’ll find some of the stiffest competition for local prospects in years.
If it wasn’t a crowded market already, it has gotten increasingly so with newcomers Texas A&M, Kansas and Clemson among those jumping into the fray.
Punahou School coach Kale Ane said he was among those surprised to hear them knocking on the school’s door. At least until he saw who was coming. Texas A&M is here because assistant coach Brian Polian, who four years ago was the point man on recruiting Te’o for Notre Dame, is now an Aggie. Kansas is here because Charlie Weis was the head coach for the Fighting Irish when they landed Te’o. And, of course, Notre Dame is here because, well, it has Te’o.
And practically the entire Pac-12 has been in because it has seen what Hawaii products have done, Mariota being among the most visible example this year as the starter for the No. 2-ranked Ducks.
“What Manti Te’o is doing speaks for itself, and for a freshman to start at Oregon and run that offense gives the talent in Hawaii a lot more validity,” said Adam Gorney, West Coast analyst for Rivals.com.
Gorney rates this year’s group “a stronger class” than most recent ones and says “they’ve gotten known earlier.
“Sometimes the Hawaii kids got looked past until a little later on in the recruiting process.”
The Aggies have already secured one local commitment, Saint Louis receiver Jeremy Tabuyo, and are pursuing others. Clemson has Moanalua’s Scott Pagano and Tennessee has Saint Louis’ Colton Goeas.
Kansas and Notre Dame are still hunting and are among more than 20 schools that have tendered offers here. At least eight schools, including UH, have already gotten non-binding oral commitments from local players.
“It is amazing the number and variety of (schools) coming out to take a look at our kids locally,” Ane said. “It is testament to the quality of the kids and the coaches.”
It is a far cry from when Ane was recruited to Michigan State in the early 1970s, a period when recruiters were few and far between. “Duffy Daugherty, the head coach, came over every year to go golfing,” Ane said. “He happened to see me running around at a park, he stopped over and we had a chat. Then, I found out the real reason he recruited me was he had to justify coming out to play golf.”
These days, recruiters just need point to Te’o or Mariota.