The Trojans were his dream school, but sometimes dreams have to be adjusted. After he relocated from American Samoa last March to Centennial High in Corona, California, Austin Maloata jumped at a USC offer in May.
Ed Orgeron liked his size and quickness, the way he charged out of a three-point stance with a low, flat back, hand-fighting like a warrior, spinning, darting and driving to the quarterback. He ran like a linebacker and played to the whistle. Already 6-3, 248 by the age of 16, he'd reached 260 as a senior, with the frame and work habits to add good weight (Youtube image from sportsontheside.net).
Maloata's father had always dreamed of his son playing for the Cardinal and Gold, his favorite college team, the school of Troy Polaamalu and Rey Maualuga, the great Polynesian stars.
Austin adjusted quickly in the move, a promising defensive lineman rated 3-stars by the services, thriving in tougher competition at Centennial, the school of Will Sutton and Vontaze Burfict, one of the premier programs in Southern California. He quickly bonded with teammates and became a leader, on a squad that featured several D-1 prospects, including Cal-committed running back Tre Watson, wide receiver Barry Ware, defensive ends Jaylen Johnson and offensive lineman Viane Talamaivao, who was also pledged to SC.
His coach at his new school, Matt Logan, told Gerard Martinez of uscfootball.com, "When they offered him, he was really emotional about it. It took him a minute to gather himself. At first, I asked him, 'If any school was to offer you, what would be your dream school?' His answer was USC."
In pads, Maloata was powerful and quick. He earned Inland Division All-CIF honors as Centennial battled to a 12-3 mark last fall, losing to powerhouse St. John Bosco in the regional final, Logan said of his coveted transfer tackle, "He plays with a lot of energy, he has a high motor and is a big, athletic kid," said Logan. "You see the enthusiasm he has. What surprised me is that right from the get go, he was taking the role of a leader."
His future looked bright, and set, until the Trojans passed over Orgeron in December and hired Steve Sarkisian from Washington, a coach who had never won more than 9 games in five seasons as a head man at UW. Maloata had less and less contact with his chosen school, and decommitted just two weeks ago after an agonizing period of soul-searching and waiting for a clear answer. The Trojans, with a new coaching staff and grand ambitions, were moving on. Reluctantly he opened up his recruiting, and immediately the 3-star got offers from Washington, Arizona State, Ole Miss, Miami and Washington State, all eager to scoop up a talented island strong man with tremendous potential and a good attitude.
He told Ryan Knowles of 247 Sports, “I’m just disappointed how slowly I left the picture after I was a committed since the first day USC offered me.”
Middle of this week, the Oregon coaches snuck him into Eugene for an official visit.
He loved the school, the atmosphere, the players and the facilities, the opportunity to compete to play right away. He felt at home. His dad was sold, a fresh start with a coaching staff that really wanted him in a program that competed with the best nationally.
He committed to the Ducks on Friday, first reported by Duck Territory and Duck Sports Authority.
Austin Maloata is now a Duck, a surprise commitment that could fill a critical need. Already strong and quick, the product of elite training at Prime Time Polynesian, a camp circuit run by former Utah Player Pene Talamaivao that specializes in developing big guys for next-level opportunities.
The work has paid off, for a fierce player with a big upside. Watch how he uses his hands and battles, play after play. With continued hard work and coaching, he'll grow into a solid replacement for Taylor Hart and Wade Keliikipi.
Junior highlights, from Leone High in American Samoa:
Senior highlights at Centennial:
Additional senior film:
Finally, a needed D lineman quacks. Now one or two more, please.
Austin plays with fire, love that. Though Ducks need the DTs, he'd actually be a great DE. But get him up to 290 with muscle, and he could play anywhere on the line. His leadership tendency and 'growing experience' with transferring to powerhouse Corona from Samoa should get him in the rotation sooner rather than later.
His work ethic combined with diet, Austin's transition from 260 to 280 will be quick. Ratu, Ratu, Ratu, too.
They'll need to bulk him up some to compete in the PAC-12 but he looks mean and aggressive. We're finally getting some beef. If Orgeron liked him, he's probably pretty good.
@DrakeMallard He's had the tremendous growing experience of coming to a new program and earning his place among a group of elite players. It's tough to join a new school in the spring of your junior year, but he thrived in that transition. He's mature, from humble beginnings, and wants to be a great football player. He has tremendously strong family support. All a recipe for success.
@duckified He'll get top-notch training, conditioning and nutrition at Oregon, and he has the motor and heart to be a warrior in the middle.
@duckified Great news for a Saturday morning and this young man will find a great home.