After taking a few highly-regarded college transfers over the last few weeks, PJ Fleck got back to the 2021 high school recruiting scene with his latest commitment today.
Saia Mapakaitolo is a 6’6″, 270 lb 2021 (3-star) offensive tackle who played through his Junior year in Southern California. When high school football was canceled in California, Mapakaitolo transferred to Mesa, Arizona to play at Red Mountain High School for his Senior season.
He never actually played a Senior season, however, and now he’ll head northeast to play his college football at the University of Minnesota.
〽️INNESOTA WHATS GOOD pic.twitter.com/rPy9AE7Rnn— Saia (@curlyheadtsaia) January 14, 2021
According to 247Sports.com, Mapakaitolo was committed to play at USC until he was asked by the coaching staff, on Early Signing Day, to wait until February (Late NSD) before signing his National Letter of Intent.
Saia decided to use that time to look for another suitor. In doing so, he found PJ Fleck and the Minnesota Gophers. And just like everyone else who finds PJ Fleck, he left the zoom call impressed.
“Like I said, that zoom call I did when they offered me really opened my eyes. Minnesota has a great program, a great coaching staff and has a great plan in place for me. They recruited me as an offensive tackle but I can move around and I’ll play wherever they want me to. I’m just excited about the opportunity to play Big 10 football.”247Sports.com
Outside of his first commitment to USC, Mapakaitolo had offers from Arizona, Arizona State, BYU, Oregon State, UCLA, Utah and Washington State. Even as an above average 3-star, Saia had offers from most major P5 schools on the West Coast.
Unless you’re an advanced offensive line scout or have major knowledge in the area, it’s really difficult to judge offensive lineman on their high school highlights, especially when they haven’t played organized football since their Junior season.
Saia is way bigger than everyone he’s matched up against in his highlight videos but told 247Sports that he’s lost 20 pounds since then. You can tell he loves to run block and put his helmet into someone’s chin, though. That’s a good start. It’s also obvious, even to the untrained eye, that there will be plenty of technical issues to work out.
That’s fine because the Gophers have a lot of depth at offensive line. Mapakaitolo will have plenty of time to grow in both the lunchroom, weight room and on the football field.
Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan