With the Oregon State coaches making the countless trips across multiple states on the recruiting trail during spring evaluations, the Jonathan Smith led staff is searching throughout the PAC-12 footprint and beyond to bring in players that best fit the new football standards, culture, and expectations in Corvallis.
The Beavers currently have three verbal commitments in the 2019 class, all coming from high schools within the state of Oregon, but are focused on continuing to pursue prospects outside of the Beaver state as well to make their presence felt when selling the program to recruits.
The state of Hawaii’s 2019 recruiting class is filled with an absolute stockpile of talented prospects at almost every single position. From Alabama to Notre Dame to the University of Hawaii, schools are constantly visiting, talking to, and hosting these valuable playmakers from the “aloha state”.
On Monday, one of those players decided to trim his list of schools down to a final six. 247Sports 6-foot-2, 220-pound three-star outside linebacker Peni Naulu from Kapolei high school about twenty miles west of Honolulu, O’ahu announced that the final six schools that will be vying for his commitment would be Nebraska, Oregon, Oregon State, UCLA, Washington, and Washington State.
“I first received my offer from Oregon State back on February 24th. They were the fourth school to offer me and the third PAC-12 school, I feel really blessed to get these opportunities to play at the next level in college and in the PAC-12 conference. It was a great feeling for me and my family. Coach Legi (Suiaunoa) and Coach (Trent) Bray were the ones to inform me that Oregon State wanted to offer me a scholarship.”
Former Hawaii defensive coordinator Coach Legi Suiaunoa has made a profound impact on Naulu since the offer was made and has stayed in contact with the outside ‘backer consistently since late February about how he sees Naulu fitting into the Beavers new defense.
“The relationship I have with the staff is still fairly new, although I’ve talked to Coach Legi and Coach (David) Lose a lot about my recruiting process and how I would be able to fit in comfortably with their new defensive game plan at OSU.”
Naulu made an unofficial visit with his family back in late March to check out Corvallis and what the school and football facilities have to offer, listing both the engineering programs that Oregon State has to offer and the football facilities.
“Oregon State has a great tradition of having a lot of Polynesian players and players from the Hawaiian islands on their teams throughout the years and have produced a lot of really good players. They have a great football program that is looking to bounce back with the new coaching staff, they have great academics, and they are known as the best college town in the PAC-12. When I visited with my family in March, I got to fully experience Oregon State. The college itself was amazing, the environment is good in and around Corvallis, and the campus was beautiful and my family loved it there. I actually enjoyed being in the cold weather which is something that I like, I enjoyed checking out their facilities, the entire campus, Reser stadium and the football field, their locker and trying on some of their game jerseys. I really love talking to the coach staff especially coach Legi and coach Smith and getting to know more about the program overall. My level of interest with Oregon State is pretty high because of the education that they have to offer and the direction the football program is headed and the coaching staff is building.”
The 808 Breeze 7-on-7 team was the team that Naulu competed with during the spring season of 7-on-7 football season and he said he felt great. He also got the opportunity to compete at The Opening regionals in Los Angeles as well which allowed Naulu to check out UCLA while he was in town.
Naulu likes a lot of different things about each of his top six schools, but admits some things stand out more than others.
“I haven’t decided quite yet on which schools I want to officially visit but I hope to figure that out soon with my family so I can take them this summer before I commit right before my senior season starts with Kapolei. Since civil engineering is what I want to major in while I am in college, academics plays a big role with each school I am considering. I liked that each school that I picked to be in my top six has a high level of education and also have a great engineering program which is what I want to major in. Each school has beautiful campus with good coaching staffs in place.”
— Nebraska: “You have the tradition and history of the football program along with playing in front of 90,000+ fans, plus you get to play in the Big-10 against other big time football teams. I think Coach Frost will be able to produce some exciting football quickly and I’d love to check them out and their engineering program.”
— Oregon: “The Ducks have Nike and their facilities are amazing. A chance to play in the PAC-12 at Autzen stadium would be incredible. They also have a bunch of Poly/Islanders on their team and I like the vibe they have around their football program and being able to check out their academics as well.”
— Oregon State: “Jonathan Smith is a great man and he’s a really good coach as well. I think he has the right staff and plan in place to change things at Oregon State. I really like talking with Coach Legi about how I could fit into their defense at the linebacker position. I also really like the top notch engineering program that they have and I feel like I’d be set up really well after I’m done with football. I’ve heard a lot of great things about Kesi Ah-Hoy, Charles Moku Watson, and Isaiah Tufaga and their time in Corvallis and how the culture has changed there. I feel like I would fit right in with the Polynesian and Hawaiian players they already have there and the foundation Oregon State has created with those players.”
— UCLA: “UCLA is close enough to home and it’s in Los Angeles. I also have some family in LA so I’d be comfortable there on campus and I’m excited to see Chip Kelly lead the team. They’re also known for have a great academic program and I got to check that out when I visited the campus this past spring.”
— Washington: “They’ve had some great seasons the past couple of years under Coach Petersen and made some impressive bowl games. I really like the defense that they run up there and Coach Lake seems to produce a lot of NFL talent. Their academics also seem top notch and a degree from Washington would set me up long term in life.”
— Washington State: “Their defensive coordinator (Alex Grinch) just left to take a different job, but I like the vibe that Washington State has up there. I want to get to know more about their style of play on defense and a chance to check out their campus. Coach Leach seems to have the right plan in place to win football games.”
Naulu also said he was hearing from schools like Alabama, Texas, Utah, USC and others before releasing his top six schools.
Ahead of his senior season with Kapolei, Naulu has big aspirations for himself and his teammates.
“The goal for our squad is to always be unified as one team, coaching staff, players, and trainers, and our other biggest priority is to always put God first in everything that we do and glorify him whether we win or lose. Personally, playing linebacker, I really want to improve my overall speed that way I am able to stay locked on to any wide receiver or tight end down the field while also developing my short distance speed to take down running backs and quarterbacks a lot quicker. Also, being able to read opposing offenses faster, my overall aggressiveness and the ability to muscle my way past offensive lineman to help get pressure on quarterbacks.”
Naulu also has a family member that he is teammates with on the Kapolei team that is a nationally ranked recruit himself and has a lot of the same offers. The thought of playing with his cousin in college, Julius Buelow, who is a 6-foot-8, 320-pounds 247Sports four-star offensive lineman prospect, has been discussed numerous times and the Beavers could be in contention to land the two in a package deal over numerous PAC-12 foes.
“My cousin Julius received his offer from Oregon State earlier this month and right after we talked once again about the idea of playing together in college, this time at another great PAC-12 program. I was happy for him to receive the offer, we both talk about our recruiting process and we just brainstorm about different places we could possibly play together every time. Oregon State is a school we both really like.”
While he hasn't had any personal one-on-one contact with former Hawaii high school standouts and current Oregon State football players Charles Moku Watson, Kesi Ah-Hoy, or Isaiah Tufaga, Naulu considers the three of them as inspirations to the younger players and likes how they were able to fit in comfortably in Corvallis as student athletes.
“I have never talked to them personally, but they are great players from Hawaii that represent the islands proudly. Kesi, Moku, and Isaiah are all big role models to the young ones in Hawaii who dream to play college football some day like them.”
As Naulu does indeed intend on taking all five official visits this summer, look for Oregon State to push hard to secure one of those visits to position themselves well for the 6-foot-2 outside linebacker before he is set to make a verbal commitment sometime before his senior season begins.
Naulu’s Hudl highlights:
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