Oregon Football: Defensive Tackle Sua’ava Poti

Mike Kelly Talent Evaluation

The Oregon Ducks have commitments from two of the best defensive tackles in the country as the early signing period approaches (December 19th). Certainly the headliner is Keyon Ware-Hudson of Mater Dei High School (Santa Ana), who is rated the No. 15 Defensive Tackle in the country. Sua’ava Poti (#30 DT) of St. John Bosco High School from Bellflower, California, however, may turn out to have a higher ceiling.

Level of Competition – Trinity League

For reference, the “Holy” Trinity League in Southern California has long been considered one of the toughest high school leagues in the country. Both St. John Bosco and Mater Dei, along with Orange Lutheran, Servite, JSerra Catholic, and Santa Margarita, make up a group of small private parochial schools with impressive athletic programs. This is especially true in football, where members of this league are always in the National Top-25. 2018 was no exception as St. John Bosco defeated Mater Dei in a matchup of the two top-rated teams in the country in mid-October. Then Mater Dei returned the favor in the CIF Section Division 1 Title game November 23rd, 17-13 at Cerritos College (Norwalk), California.


Poti has the frame to play defensive end in a 3-4 alignment or a 3-Technique defensive tackle position in a 4-3 alignment. As he matures and puts on weight throughout college and into the pros, he will transition into a true “Point” Nose Tackle (NT) due primarily to functional strength. He is the strongest DT in the 2019 recruiting class.

Poti has been listed by various sources as 6-foot-3 to 6-foot-4 and 275 to 285 pounds. The recruiting website Next College Student Athlete (ncsa.org) lists him at 6-foot-4 and 275 pounds. ESPN High School Recruiting lists him at 6-foot-3 and 285 pounds.

Sua’ava Poti
Rivals Camp

ESPN also published testing results from a recent combine. Typically these come from The Opening – Regionals a sanctioned event where the athletes are officially measured, timed, and tested. I have copies of all twelve Regional combines produced by Nike for the spring of 2018 and Poti does not appear on any of them. These numbers may come from the Rivals 3 Stripe Camps (where the results are not readily available) or these testing results may have come from spring before his junior year. Poti missed his junior year due to a leg injury and may not have been ready to participate by the spring of 2018.

Poti’s 87.09 SPARQ score is excellent for an athlete of his size. And if it was actually done before his junior year, it is borderline elite. The salient result in his testing was the Power Ball where he threw it 48.5 feet.

That was the farthest throw of anyone tested in the 2019 Recruiting Class.


Sinks and Changes Direction…

Poti has the ability to sink and change direction, to set an edge on the perimeter. In the video above he alters his rush lane to cut off the running backs angle to the edge, for a Tackle For Loss (TFL).

Nice Swim Move…

Poti displays throughout his videos an advanced level of hand techniques. In the video above he scrapes and goes over the top of the offensive lineman (“swim” move), as a sophomore in high school.

Holding the Point…

In the video above, Poti flashes his functional strength by getting under the pads of the center in front of him, and leveraging him back into the run lane. This is how you “blow up” a running play.

Stays in his Pass Rush Lane…

So how do you control the best dual-threat quarterback in the country? You maintain Rush Lane Discipline. In the video above Poti never allows Mater Dei Quarterback Bryce Young (No. 9) an escape lane. He keeps the talented (and fast) signal caller in front of him, so his teammates can run him down. Great technique.

Bull Rush Technique – “Flat” Back…

In the video above Poti demonstrates how you transfer power from your legs to your upper torso to generate a bull rush. The momentum and power knocks his opponent off his anchor. A “flat” back is critical to the pad level necessary to do this.

Pushing the Pocket – Bull Rush…

Poti in the video above splits the double-team and sacks USC commit Young of Mater Dei, the uber-talented dual-threat QB.

Rising Stars Camp Prior to Senior Season…

In the video above Poti plays to his strengths against top level competition. He uses a variety of hand techniques and quick choppy feet, to leverage his way around his opponent on one-on-one drills. His relentless desire jumps out at you, not only on this video but throughout his tapes. Taking “a play off” during a game is an alien concept to him.

Rivals Camp prior to Senior Year…

In the video above Poti flashes his strength, leverage, and spin moves to move his opponent off his anchor. Poti is a difficult challenge for ANY offensive lineman.

Who He Reminds Me Of…

Fili Moala played at USC and was selected in the second round (No. 56 overall) in the 2009 NFL Draft by the Indianapolis Colts. Both Moala and Poti share very similar size, functional strength, hand technique, and relentless desire to succeed.

Others that are similar: University of Alabama 2016 “Twin Terrors Inside” A’shawn Robinson that was selected by the Detroit Lions in the second round (No. 46 overall), and Jarran Reed taken by the Seattle Seahawks also in the second round (three spots later at No. 49).


Poti possesses the size, functional strength, and lateral agility to put him in the upper echelon of defensive linemen in this recruiting class. The offensive linemen that have the size and bulk to defeat his strength, are not quick enough to handle his variety of moves. And the linemen who are taller and more athletic (Left Tackles) do not have the bulk and strength to defeat his bull rush.

In addition to his physical attributes, he has also demonstrated the desire to be great in terms of coachability, attitude and a relentless nature on the field.

I researched all twelve of The Opening – Regionals camps and found only ten defensive tackles in this recruiting class that had a SPARQ score equal or greater than Poti’s 87.09. I assigned points 11 through 1 to these eleven players in each of the four testing disciplines (40 yard dash, 20 yard short shuttle, power ball, and vertical jump). The thought process behind this is that the power ball toss and the 20 yard short shuttle are more relevant to a defensive tackle than a 40 yard dash or vertical jump for obvious reasons. Below are the results:

2019 Defensive Tackles

Clearly Poti is a Top-5 Defensive Tackle prospect, as he and two others tied for that ranking with an aggregate score of 21.

Poti also has the football “bloodlines” in his family. Many of his relatives have played collegiately and in the NFL. He is as close to a “can’t miss” guy as it gets:

Sua’ava Poti: Yes, I have a 1st Cousin Jaryl Mamea who plays DT for UCF Knights (he was an All-Conference DT and a key player when they won the Fiesta Bowl in 2014); cousin Simon Poti who plays and starts at LB for UH; cousin Viane Talamaivao started at OG as a true Freshman for USC; also a cousin, Justin Alo who is a QB and won the MVP as JC National Champs at Mt SAC. As for my uncles, my uncle Isaako Sopoaga played DT/NG for SF 49ers, Eagles, Patriots and Cardinals, Uncle Domata Peko starts at NG/DT for Cincinnati Bengals. I wear #31 because my Uncle Michael Alo was one of the best Samoan football players was a star FB for Banning Pilots and USC Trojans back in the early 80’s.

Alan Popadines – Youth 1 Football

Poti will see the field early in his career at Oregon as a 3-4 defensive end. As he gets bigger throughout his sophomore and junior years he will likely transition to the inside to maximize his potential for mismatches due to his athleticism and functional strength.

He has All-Conference ability, All-American potential, and a very bright NFL Future.

Michael Kelly “ChicoDuck”
Chico, California

Top Photo Credit: Maxpreps.com Video


Natalie Liebhaber, the FishDuck.com Volunteer Editor for this article, works in the financial technology industry in Bozeman, Montana.



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