New Oregon Football Head Coach Willie Taggart seemed to make a living raiding the commit list of the Arizona Wildcats this past recruiting cycle. First there was the whirlwind courtship and successful commitment of All-World quarterback, Braxton Burmeister, and then he pried one of the best defensive linemen in Southern California Austin Faoliu from the ‘cats.
Faoliu played at JSerra High School in San Juan Capistrano as a junior but transferred in the offseason and played for Southern California powerhouse Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana as a senior. He originally committed to Coach Rich Rodriguez of Arizona September 16, 2016. However, as recruiting interest in him picked up, he rescinded his commitment on January 11, 2017. By that time the University of Oregon had entered the picture, and Austin Faoliu committed to the Ducks at The Polynesian Bowl over USC, Arizona, and Texas, among some twelve other offers on January 21, 2017.
Austin Faoliu has been widely reported to be 6’4″ and 295 lbs., although rotoworld.com states that he is 285 lbs. Andrew Nemec of oregonlive.com follows more of the mainstream opinion that he weighs in at 295 lbs.
I haven’t seen anything online where he has participated in any officially sanctioned events that tested him for Speed, Power, Agility, Reaction or Quickness (SPARQ); however I have seen a 4.97-second 40-yard dash listed. Though this clocking is unverified based upon the film that I have seen, there is a distinct possibility that this is true, as he appears to be very quick on tape. A clock under 5.0 seconds for a man of his size is ELITE speed.
I have not seen anything as it relates to arm length or hand size, but based on his height I would guess that his arm length is approximately 33 to 33-1/2″, and his hand size is 9-1/2 to 9-7/8″.
Holding the Point
In the video above, Austin Faoliu drops the anchor, and his opponents can’t move him off the point.
Gap Penetration …
Faoliu does a nice job of scraping and Gap Penetration to disrupt the play in the backfield (above). This film clip is from his junior year when he was at JSerra High School before he transferred to Mater Dei.
Inside Pass Rush …
Faoliu pushes the pocket with an Inside Pass Rush flashing nice Bull Rush technique (arms extended, leverage with a low base, dropping his hips). His film clips do not show a lot of this, but I believe it’s the type of defense Mater Dei ran, rather than a skillset deficiency.
Plays with a Great Base …
Watch Faoliu drop his hips to develop leverage. The quickest way to do that is to widen your base. It also makes it easier to control the offensive lineman in front of you.
Hand Use …
Nice hand technique in the film clip above. He uses his hand placement to get his opponent off-balance to control the man in front of him.
A Word About the Trinity League in Southern California …
California is the most populous state in the country, and as such, there are a lot of great football teams and even greater leagues that call that state “home.” And because approximately two-thirds of the state’s 36 million people live south of Fresno, Los Angeles is clearly the epicenter of high school football. Certainly the pinnacle of high school football in Southern California is the Trinity League – or “Holy Trinity League,” as some call it. It is a collection of small Christian schools with a big football tradition and an even bigger reputation.
The Trinity League has been ranked the second best high school league in the entire country numerous times. Maxpreps.com ranked it No. 2 in 2010 and 2013, and the coachchris99.com ranked it No. 2 in 2015.
On any given Friday night, the field at any of these venues is replete with future college-level football players. As such, the film clips we’re looking at are kids playing at the highest level in high school sports in the country. The point of this exercise is that when a college receives a committent from a kid that has played (and excelled) at Mater Dei, St. John Bosco, Servite, etc., it means that they are accustomed to playing at a high level of competition. The “bright lights” of big time D1 football will be less of a shock to them when compared to a kid from a small rural school.
Who He Reminds Me Of …
Two other players that Faoliu is similar to are Tyson Jackson of the Atlanta Falcons and Cedric Thornton of the Philadelphia Eagles. Jackson was taken in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft (No. 3 overall). Thornton signed with the Eagles as an undrafted free agent and played for them from 2011 to 2015. He subsequently played for the Dallas Cowboys in 2016 and is presently on the Buffalo Bills roster.
Austin Faoliu is a well-built athlete that appears to be able to carry more good weight without impacting his athleticism. He plays with a wide base and drops his hips for leverage to hold the point. Based on limited video, he appears to shoot the gap pretty well because he is a high-motor, high-effort guy.
Based upon his triangle numbers he appears to be best suited as a Strong Side Defensive End (SDE) in a 4-3 scheme or a Defensive End (DE) in a 3-4 scheme. His increased weight to the 310-pound range and experience playing over the Nose should make a smooth transition for either scheme.
I saw some evidence of him turning sideways when double-teamed rather than dropping his hips and getting lower than the guard-tackle tandem, who was trying to move him off the point. He will adjust to this with maturation, size, and coaching.
Faoliu is a very strong point-man that easily could move out to end — and I expect him to end up there. He lacks the natural bulk to anchor the point at Nose Tackle, and he’s certainly athletic enough to play on the perimeter and set an edge.
Faoliu will see the field early in his college career and has an NFL future.
Michael Kelly (ChicoDuck)
Top photo credit: twitter.com