Larry Tuileta was known to drop a bomb on opposing defenses from time to time as an All-State quarterback at Punahou.
He dropped one more this morning, pledging allegiance to USC and stiff-arming Hawaii in a stunning reversal at the PIAA National Letter of Intent day signing ceremony at the Sheraton Waikiki.
Tuileta, the Star-Advertiser offensive player of the year, made an oral committment in April to play football and volleyball for UH. But when USC brought in Steve Sarkisian as its new football coach in December, UH was suddenly up against the former Washington head coach and USC assistant coach.
It all happened within the past two weeks, when Tuileta went to visit the USC and UH campuses. USC had dual appeal to Tuileta, a three-time All-State volleyball player.
“It came down to deciding between two great programs. I discussed it with my parents. It took a very long time. I was up late until this morning, constantly thinking about the decision,” he said. “There’s been a lot of changes (at USC), so he (Sarkisian) gave me an opportunity to get onto the team. He gave me a spot. It’s a chance that I’m going to take.”
There was no interest under previous USC head coach Lane Kiffin.
Tuileta talked with Hawaii coach Norm Chow before making his decision.
“I told him there’s another option,” he said.
UH still landed most of its top prospects. Wide receivers Devan Stubblefield (Saint Louis) and Donald Lambert (Moanalua), tight end Dakota Torres (Punahou), defensive end Kaau Gifford (Kamehameha), linebacker Dayton Furuta (Mililani) and safety Manly “Pumba” Williams (Farrington) all gave their signatures to Manoa.
Stubblefield could help immediately. He was an All-State pass catcher who was a deep threat as well as a crisp route runner. His early commitment to UH stood strong, but he was definitely pursued.
“Other guys tried to get in the door, teams from the Pac-12 and Big 12 as well. But I took my visit this past weekend and that opened my eyes. It’s family, it’s God, God spoke to me. That was one of my main decisions, and Coach Chow allowed (me) to play football and baseball,” Stubblefield said. .
He conceded that baseball could offer other options should he have a strong senior season and get drafted. Then he’d possibly play college football and pro baseball. But one thing for sure is that he won’t be catching perfectly thrown spirals from Tuileta.
“Larry’s going to be family no matter what. He was committed to Hawaii first and we accept him. It’s no different now. Wherever he goes, it’s going to be good for him. I was getting excited to play with him, but it is what it is,” Stubblefield said.