Matayo Uiagalelei is not his older brother.
The younger brother of Clemson starting quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei — Matayo is his own man. He’s not going to just follow the same path of D.J. to Clemson. That was clear Wednesday, as he spent the day at Ohio State impressing the Buckeyes coaching staff.
The elite recruit from St. John Bosco in Bellflower, California, Uiagalelei worked one-on-one with legendary defensive line coach Larry Johnson. He’s produced a bounty of recent first-round draft picks, including Nick Bosa, Joey Bosa and Chase Young. With a 6-foot-4, 255-pound frame, Uiagalelei has the length and speed to take his talents anywhere in the nation.
Clemson will be in the mix, but committing to the Tigers is far from a done deal.
“They’re not going to recruit me because my brother goes there,” he said. “They’re gonna recruit me for me, so I think they do a really good job of that.”
In the mad rush that has been June, Uiagalelei did get down to Clemson. He spent a day working at Dabo Swinney Camp, working with the defensive ends in the morning and tight ends in the afternoon. A two-way player at St. John Bosco, he is deciding between playing defensive end or tight end at the next level.
The No. 2 ranked edge player in the country for the class of 2023, Uiagalelei knows he can be developed at Clemson, Ohio State or wherever else he chooses to go. The No. 1 factor in his recruitment, however, is player development. Knowing which schools will set him up for success in the next 3-5 years is as important, if not more so, than the location or his connection to the school.
“For me, on my recruiting list,” Uiagalelei said. “I’d probably say player development is No. 1, so there’s a lot of other good schools that can develop me as a player and this is one of them, too.
“I’m gonna do my best and try to be successful anywhere.”
Ohio State, Clemson and Alabama seem to be the teams to beat in his recruitment. But the rest of college football is chasing after his skills, too. Whether he wants to play tight end or defensive end, any school will take his talents. He’s a generational-type player who could play both ways in college, if that’s something he really wants to do.
But as much as he isn’t D.J., Matayo has learned lessons from his older brother’s recruitment process. Plenty of teams were fake with him, others overhyped the entire visit.
“I learned a lot to see him go through the different colleges and visits, seeing how colleges hype, not necessarily fake, but like, there’s a lot of stuff that matters more than other things that don’t matter,” he said.
Matayo Uiaglaleli has no interest in that. He wants to pick a place for himself.