In this installment of The Recruiting Notebook, we meet a developmental prospect who, if things go well, could be a big addition to the Canes’ OL down the line: Miami (FL) La Salle 3-star OL Frankie Tinilau.
It is no secret that one of the foundational tenets of Mario Cristobal’s rebuild of the Miami Hurricanes is drastic improvement to the Offensive Line. And, the search for the players to make that change come to life took a long trip before landing Miami (FL) La Salle OL Frankie Tinilau.
I know you’re thinking “how was it a long trip if he’s from Miami?” Well, the answer is simple: Tinilau isn’t from Miami. He’s from a land where it’s tomorrow already: Australia. A top rugby player, the 6’5” 315lb Tinilau first found his way to football with an Australian All-Star team, competing for a U-19 team during Australia’s American Football championship playoffs at just age 14.
Tinilau and family moved to California in 2019...and moved back to Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Upon his return Down Under, Tinilau resumed playing Rugby, and he resumed being awesome at it immediately. Playing for the Brisbane Rhinos, Tinilau was among the best players in the sport. He was named the Europe Elite’s U-19 Male Athlete of the Year in the winter of 2021, which speaks to his elite performance on the pitch that season.
But, after some exposure to the sport while in America previously, Tinilau had the idea that transitioning to Football from Rugby might be a good move for him. He already had a handful of offers from 2020 to his credit, and the move to America made sense.
Instead of returning to California, Tinilau made the move to Miami for his next American home. And, immediately, Miami got involved with the big lineman. The Canes were his first unofficial visit and offer upon his return to the States, and there were strong mutual interest from the jump. Tinilau is of Samoan ancestry, so the connection with DT coach Joe Salave’a, and Cristobal’s history with Samoan players, particularly from his time at Oregon, was a major value add to this recruitment.
Though he had not played football much, Tinilau’s massive frame — 6’5” 315lbs — and history of performance with Rugby gave teams across the country high levels of interest in the Australian native. Tinilau’s interest however was focused on Miami, and he committed to Mario Cristobal’s Canes on April 11th.
On the 247sports composite, Tinilau is a 3-star prospect, the #102 OT nationally, #171 in the State of Florida, and #1202 player overall in this class.
Tinilau committed to Miami over 10 offers from around the country, but 6 more teams have offered him through his senior season to drive the number up to 16. Either way, this was really all Miami from the start.
As A Player
The first thing that stands out about Tinilau is his massive size. A legit 6’5”/6’6” 315lbs, he looks like the prototypical tackle teams want on the offensive line. Sure, he can add more strength at the college level as he matures, but from a physical standpoint, Tinilau is game-ready right now.
The big thing about Tinilau is his immense potential. That is a double edged sword; he has only one full season of football experience (this current season at La Salle), but because of that lack of experience, he’s a moldable mound of clay, which Miami can develop in the mold they see fit.
Tinilau could find a home at either Left or Right tackle in the future. He played mainly on the left side for his HS team this year, and for my money, that’s where I’d start him. If he can develop into a solid player (or better) there, great! If not, slide him to the right side.
As would be expected for a player with Tinilau’s relative inexperience in the game of Football, and his history in Rugby (a very physical sport if you didn’t know), Tinilau is better as a run blocker than pass protector at this point of his development. Let him get his hands on a defender in the run game, and good things happen. Tinilau is good at pulling on plays as well, with his athleticism clearly on display.
But, as stated, work will be needed to get him ready to be a solid pass blocker in the future. Tinilau does have good athleticism and quick feet, so his ability to move in space and mirror pass rushers is there. And he has a positive wingspan, so he can control rushers and keep them at a distance. Hand placement and technique against better rushers (La Salle doesn’t play great HS comp) will be needed in the future for Tinilau to find success.
- Physical build
- Enjoys being physical (which can be a struggle for some players transitioning to Football full-time)
- Lack of experience
- Pass protection (at the level needed)
While I think that Tinilau has the tools and potential to become a good player for Miami down the line, it’s gonna take a few seasons to get there. A redshirt and a year (or two) of rotational snaps would do Tinilau well, and give him the time to develop his potential into regular performance.
With other, higher rated players in this class ahead of him, and possibly (likely?) a couple transfer as well, there shouldn’t be a need to rush Tinilau onto the field. But, again, that’s actually a good thing for all parties, and should put Tinilau in a place to be successful when he does finally crack the 2-deep down the line.
Tinilau could be anything from also-ran to all-conference in his time at Miami. He’s the ultimate wildcard, long shot at getting a lump of high-potential, moldable clay and turning it into the Hope Diamond. Will the optimal development and performance path happen? Who’s to know. But with Cristobal and Mirabal leading the way, I’d wager Tinilau ends up as solid-or-better as opposed to being a bust in his career here at Miami. Either way, we’ll have to wait a few years before we start getting evidence supporting either narrative.
That’s it for this installment of The Recruiting Notebook.