Erik McKinney has an interesting post up on ESPN Insider today about Pac-12 schools and in-state recruiting ($).
It's a premium article, so I won't go into too much detail other than the fact that it states how important it is for schools like Arizona, ASU, Washington, and Utah to keep the top recruits in-state close to home. Those schools are going to be at a disadvantage most of the time when they try to land the top kids in California with USC and UCLA rolling in recruiting right now, so it's pretty obvious that they need to win the local battles for the few blue chip players who come out of their own territory.
Utah is never going to take that next step as a program to contend for a Pac-12 championship if they can't land kids like Porter Gustin (USC), Osa Masina (USC), and Andre James (UCLA). ASU is going to struggle to contend for a playoff spot if they can't sign an impact offensive weapon from their home state like Christian Kirk (Texas A&M). Even Oregon, who didn't sign a player from their home state in the 2015 class, needs to make sure they land a potential star linebacker in LaMar Winston in this year's recruiting class. The Ducks can recruit offensive skill nationally, but struggle to sign elite defenders for their front seven. When one is in their backyard, it should be a major priority to land him.
Even with the in-state talent and all of the FBS level prospects in California, Pac-12 schools still need to search other states to fill out their recruiting classes. One state that has been a nice compliment in recruiting for Pac-12 schools is Hawaii. Seven of the top ten recruits from Hawaii signed with Pac-12 schools in 2015.
It's a place that always produces talent year after year, yet a lot of that talent never seems to grab much attention when it comes to recruiting rankings or scholarships offers. Even when they do earn blue chip status according to the major recruiting sites, it takes awhile to earn it. The top four prospects from Hawaii in the 2015 class, all of them linemen, all were bumped up to 4 or 5 star status after shining at camps or all star games rather than based on their performance while competing at home.
The latest to get a bump from his performance at a camp is offensive guard Michael Eletise. Following last year's crop of talented big men, Eletise appears to be the next in line to shine a light on Hawaiian football after earning an invite to The Opening finals after participating in the regional camp in LA last weekend.
He currently has offers from nine of the twelve Pac-12 schools (Stanford, USC, and Oregon are the only ones who haven't offered yet) as well as national programs like Florida State and Nebraksa. I expect more will be coming his way too.
He has the size and athleticism to develop into a big time guard at the college level and has good enough feet that he may be able to slide out and play tackle if that's what is asked of him. His ability to sustain blocks and get his feet and hips around to reach block defenders in the run game is exceptional. He has all the tools to become a dominant pass blocker too as you can see in these clips from The Opening regional in LA last week.
As good as Eletise performed in LA, the offensive line coaches voted another Hawaiian lineman as the MVP for that camp. Toleafoa "Sean" Auwae took home that honor as he also excelled and showed some additional nastiness to his game.
This helped him get on the radar and he received his first Pac-12 offer from Washington State after that. What separates Eletise from Auwae right now is their junior film. Auwae is much more raw in terms of his technique with simple things like hand placement and having inconsistent pad level. The raw talent is there to work with though and if he eventually earns an invite to The Opening finals like Eletise, that should be another opportunity for him to turn some heads. I expect that that offer from the Cougs won't be his last from a Pac-12 school.
Eletise is the highest ranked player and the only current 4 star from the state of Hawaii in the 2016 recruiting class. By the time it's all said and done, it wouldn't be a surprise if a player like Auwae eventually joined him as another blue chip prospect on the line from the Aloha State.
I understand why Hawaii does not get the credit that a lot of other states do when it comes to producing college football players. The level of competition combined with the lack of overall number of athletes and lack of exposure add up to them being a bit of an afterthought in terms of talent.
Fortunately, it's not an afterthought for Pac-12 programs. They do focus significant recruiting efforts there and know they can find talent year after year. They hope the work they put in this year can help land them Eletise, the next great lineman from Hawaii.