Joe Tukuafu was ready to make his decision.
When the East tight end showed up to a workout Monday morning, he told coach Brandon Matich he wanted to commit to the University of Utah. The pair phoned Utah assistant coach Jay Hill, who helped them track down Utah coach Kyle Whittingham so Tukuafu could inform him of his decision to play up the street for the Utes.
A 6-foot-4, 235 pounds, Tukuafu was recruited by Utah as a tight end, but Matich said he’s a player who can play on either side of the ball.
“He’s a big kid that’s still growing,” Matich said. “He moves well in space, he’s got great hands, he blocks really well and he’s an aggressive blocker.”
Tukuafu is the third Division-1 commit for the Leopards this year, following East running back Ula Tolutau (Wisconsin) and defensive end Korey Rush (Arizona State). Matich said junior fullback/linebacker Christian Folau currently holds an offer from Stanford.
Matich said seeing players he’s helped groom make such phenomenal jumps in their prep careers is something that can’t be replaced.
“It’s unbelievable,” he said. “They all have it in them, they just need to be taught the right direction, academically as well. As long as someone points them in the right direction, and I’ve always said this that our goal is to win a state championship as well as every other program and it is again this year, but to me, our program is pretty empty and pretty hollow if our kids aren’t getting scholarships.”
Matich said that Tukuafu’s emerging talent has forced the hand of the Leopards’ coaching staff to implement some more passing schemes into their option attack. Tukuafu will also play some defensive end for the Leopards this season, but Matich said his primary goal is to get the newly-minted Utah commit more involved in the offense.