High School Sports

Why wait? The top local football recruits take advantage of NCAA’s first early signing period

Ben Wilson at Sumner High School in Sumner, Wash., on Wednesday, June 15, 2016.
Ben Wilson at Sumner High School in Sumner, Wash., on Wednesday, June 15, 2016. jbessex@gateline.com

No more waiting.

And waiting.

And second guessing.

That’s what the implications are of this new early signing period, which began at 7 a.m. Wednesday and runs through Friday. It allows high school athletes to sign letters of intent now instead of holding on to their verbal commitments for months and months.

Four of the South Sound’s most recruited football players signed on Wednesday, taking advantage of the NCAA’s first-ever early signing period and becoming part of the first players ever to sign before the traditional February National Signing Day.

“For me, it’s nice to sign early and be done with the recruiting process so I can focus on getting ready for TCU,” said Sumner’s three-star linebacker Ben Wilson, who stuck to his TCU commitment and signed despite getting his latest scholarship offer less than a month ago from the University of Washington.

Wilson is ranked as the sixth-best 2018 recruit from the state of Washington by 247Sports and the 26th -best inside linebacker in the country. He committed to TCU, which has the fourth-best rushing defense in college football this season, in late June over offers from Arizona, Arizona State, Cal, Cornell, Louisville, Oregon State, Princeton, Syracuse, UCLA, Utah, Utah State, Vanderbilt, Washington State and others.

“Ben is a smart and physical linebacker with good instincts,” TCU defensive coordinator Chad Glasgow said in a release, “which allows him to close quickly on ball carriers.”

Wilson is a two-time TNT all-state linebacker and led Sumner to back-to-back trips to the 4A state semifinals. He was out of town with family, so Sumner didn’t have a formal signing ceremony for him.

“Once I committed in June, I was all in and 100 percent committed to my decision,” he said.

But UW did get a pair of local linemen in Fife offensive lineman Ulumoo “MJ” Ale and Emerald Ridge defensive lineman Mosiah Nasili-Liu.

Auburn Mountainview’s Talan Alfrey wasn’t as heavily recruited as those aforementioned players. But that’s because The News Tribune’s All-Area player of the year shut down his recruiting in July when he committed to Brigham Young University after earning an MVP honor at their offseason team camp.

He is heading there as a safety and he jumped at the chance to commit to BYU because the university was accepting of him wanting to spend the next two years completing a missionary program.

“I think it’s nice for the people who know for sure on where they want to go,” Alfrey said of the early signing period. “I know I want to go to BYU and I have no problem signing early to show that.”

And it hasn’t seemed to make for any less drama than past years.

Five athletes from the South Sound signed to Power Five conferences last year – including Sumner’s Connor Wedington and Graham-Kapowsin’s Foster Sarell both heading to Stanford, but that was all in February.

Wedington had been committed to UW until early December of last year, before reopening his recruitment and eventually committing to Stanford.

Nasili-Liu already went through that. He was committed to Utah until announcing that he was flipping to UW on Nov. 23. He’s considered a three-star recruit by 247Sports and moved to South Hill from Walnut Creek, California, last year.

The appeal to UW was that it is closer to home and closer to his family.

“They mean a lot to me and my Polynesian culture – we’re family-based,” Nasili-Liu said. “To be away from them would be a difficult task. It would be easier to stay home and play for an even better program.”

He said he met with UW’s Vita Vea, a likely first-round NFL draft pick, during his official visit two weeks ago.

“I asked what the one piece of advice he could give me,” Nasili-Liu said. “And the thing he said was to enjoy the experience. It flies by. So I’m excited for that and I want to take advantage of everything I can at the next level.”

Then there was Ale, the 6-foot-6, 360-pound 2A SPSL Mountain MVP and two-time TNT All-Area offensive lineman. He took his official visit to Washington last week after committing on Aug. 4.

He and Nasili-Liu will be part of what 247Sports deems as the No. 11 recruiting class in the country.

Ale also had offers from Arizona, New Mexico, Oregon, Oregon State, UCLA, Utah and Colorado State among others.

And now instead of celebrating in February, Ale – who didn’t play football until his sophomore year after growing up competing in boxing and rugby in Australia – said he’s looking forward to celebrating it with his family for Christmas.

“It’s nice going into the holidays knowing exactly where I am headed,” Ale said.

“I was thinking on February (to sign), but I just knew earlier where I belong. I’m not nervous at all. I’m 100 percent confident that UW is the right place for me.”

TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677

Twitter: @TJCotterill

SIGNED, SEALED, DELIVERED

Here’s the list of South Sound football players who signed letters of intent during the NCAA’s first-ever early footbal signing period, allowing atheletes to sign this week if they choose to, instead of waiting for the early February National Signing Day:

OL Ulumoo “MJ” Ale, Fife — Washington

DB Talan Alfrey, Auburn Mountainview — BYU

DL Corbin Hartsock, Olympia — Eastern Washington

DL Mosiah Nasili-Liu, Emerald Ridge — Washington

LB Ben Wilson, Sumner — TCU

Know of other local signees we don’t? Email preps@thenewstribune.com

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