Matayo Uiagalelei Recaps Ohio State Official Visit, Latest in Recruitment – Sports Illustrated

  • September 13, 2022

St. John Bosco High School in Bellflower, Calif. is Maxpreps' No. 1-ranked team in the country. The Braves play a national schedule and their most recent game took them to the Pacific Northwest for a matchup against Portland's Central Catholic Rams at Autzen Stadium.
On a roster overflowing with Division 1 talent, edge rusher Matayo Uiagalelei has cemented himself as the headliner of the bunch. A priority target for Dan Lanning and the Ducks, he spoke with Ducks Digest about the latest in his recruitment.
The 6-foot-5, 265 pounder recently took a trip to Columbus to visit Ohio State for their matchup against Notre Dame, his third of five official visits.
"That was pretty cool seeing a real game. It was a real good game," Uiagalelei said. "They played a good team Notre Dame. It was a good experience to see that, see the how the players get ready and just go through the whole game day."
While he hasn't released any top schools, the Buckeyes have been a major contender in his recruitment for some time. He spoke more on why they're in contention.
"For sure Larry Johnson that's a big thing. I think just him coaching different, all around just NFL guys every year," he said. "The work he does kind of speaks for itself. Even if he wasn't there, Ohio (State) they just have a good reputation, just of good players and good culture. I think it's pretty impressive."
The 2023 composite five-star recruit took an unofficial visit to Oregon this weekend, a school he's become very familiar with due to multiple Bosco connections and numerous visits.
What was he looking for ahead of the trip?
"Just see the game. Just kind of embrace it all. Take it all in," the edge rusher said. "I don't think I have something I'm looking for exactly. Nothing new, just seeing the experience."
The contact with Oregon has been solid, although it may not be as frequent as some might expect with a top target.
"I don't need the coaches calling or texting me every day. I want them to keep focus with the team they got right now," he noted. "I maybe call them (Oregon) like once a week, once every two weeks. We text once a week. It's a big season for me and our whole team, we're pretty focused."
READ MORE: Oregon cracks AP top 25 poll after win over Eastern Washington 
The Ducks surrendered just 14 points in a dominant defensive showing.
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The Ducks are back in the polls after dominating Eastern Washington.
Uiagalelei's recruitment is one of the most highly contested in the country. A pair of trips to other schools could be on the horizon. 
"I'm not sure yet. I'll probably head out to a USC game, it's just right down the street," he said. "If I do go anywhere outside of state, it'll probably be Alabama. But I'm not sure. Probably those two." 
Uiagalelei still has two official visits left, but he's already taken an official visit to USC. Now three games into his senior season, it doesn't sound like a decision is in the near future, but we did get some clarity on a timeline.
"Definitely taking my time. I'm gonna graduate early, so some time after the season. Some time after the season I'll make my decision."
As he navigates a recruiting process that features some of college football's most prominent schools, he highlighted one factor that carries some extra weight.
"I think I've always been about player development," he said. "Just me going somewhere and them making me the best person, the best player I could possibly be. Them pushing me to get to where I wanna go. That's kind of a broad term. Gotta have a good relationship with the staff. It has to be the like the right fit, whatever the defensive scheme is or what you think you are. Overall, just like a vague statement–just player development."
Uiagalelei has a unique situation in that he's practically gone through two recruitments after his older brother DJ, who also went to St. John Bosco, eventually ended up with the Clemson Tigers. 
In a moment of reflection he offered some insight on the biggest lesson he's learned from the process.
"I'd probably say no college is perfect," the younger Uiagalelei said. "There's not gonna be that perfect college or that perfect fit. You're gonna face adversity wherever you go. I think that's the biggest thing. It's how you react to the adversity and how you respond."
Follow Max on Twitter: @mtorressports
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Max Torres is the publisher and lead editor of Ducks Digest. He’s covered the Oregon football and basketball beats for three years and takes a primary focus covering the Duck football on the recruiting trail.