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The Tale of the Five-Star Tackles

Francis Mauigoa and Samson Okunlola are both Miami Hurricanes. The offensive tackles will need to get on the field at the same time, so which one plays the blindside?

Miami’s Bryant McKinnie... SetNumber: X64083 TK3 R7 F4

The Miami Hurricanes have received solid, public commitments from prep offensive tackles Francis Mauigoa and Samson Okunlola ahead of Early Signing Day on December 21st, 2022. Head coach Mario Cristobal’s greatest strength is in recruiting or talent acquisition. As a former offensive lineman, Cristobal understands the need to secure the offensive line first and foremost.

If you recall, when I wrote my piece on the offensive line recruiting process, it was in reference to the differences between Jalen Rivers and Issiah Walker. If Rivers can stay healthy, he’s a future NFL starting guard. Walker’s career is all but over now in college football (remember when you all argued with me about how 247 Sports and two P5 schools could possibly miss on Mr. Walker?).

Walker lacked the “pop” in the hands that college coaches want, and the lack of hip drive and re-acceleration on contact. Rivers could get in his stance, and when he fired out he used his hands, posterior, and hips to re-direct force.

The Power 5 assistant I spoke with for the, “What college coaches look for in an offensive line prospect.” piece said the top-3 factors coaches look for on tape are: size, bend, and power.

Tale of the Five-Star Tackles

Francis Mauigoa checks in at six-foot-five and a half, and 330 pounds. He’s an IMG National player and the 8th ranked player in the nation per 247 Sports. Mauigoa is the top prep offensive tackle in the country in the 2023 class. Mauigoa played right tackle at IMG in ‘21, and left tackle for the Ascenders in ‘22.

Samson Okunlola is also six-foot-five, but a slim 305 pounds by comparison. Okunlola heads to Coral Gables from the Thayer Academy in Mass. Okunlola is the 20th ranked prep in the nation and the 3rd overall tackle in the ‘23 class. Okunlola also played defense and has some serious athleticism.

Remember, they’re both five-star prospects per 247 Sports.

Mauigoa’s Tape

Francis Mauigoa is the real deal. He’s tall, long, thick- he has an NFL body. I love that he was been at IMG. Especially for the O-Line and D-Line, IMG is the way to go to get your body right and start right away at the college level. IMG has a professional environment for strength and conditioning, including diet and nutrition.

What you like to see, too, is that Mauigoa has done it against some top flight competition. Miami Central and St. Frances Academy are no joke on the defensive lines and Mauigoa looked like a star against both.

Area(s) of improvement: I see ONE areas of improvement in Mauigoa’s game- he uses his face a little too much in a “horizontal push” method from the olden days. He’s a facemask first blocker which can 1- lead to CTE or concussions, and 2- you’re easy to throw off by a defender because you’re lunging.

But, he has a good punch (could be more impactful but SFA defenders are no joke), he can run out in space, he understands leverage and body positioning. He’ll project as a right tackle on the run-first side of the line.

Unlike Big Samson, Mauigoa’s tape is against ELITE competition in St. Frances Academy.

Hands and Punch

Under Mauigoa’s “area of improvement” I’m putting his use of his facemask as a blocking tool. The 90’s are over and horizontal push SHOULD be a dead aspect of O-Line play. His hand punch doesn’t stick out on tape, but then again this is SFA and their defense is second to none.

Leg Drive

Mauigoa’s is an insane athlete. The way he runs at 6-5, 330 pounds is eye popping. His leg drive is dominant and his peak power at the point of attack is clear. Also his ability to re-accelerate on contact is what makes him a clear Blue Chip prospect. You can’t teach being a gigantic human, but you can teach the technique that he does well and make it even better.

Pass Set

Like Samson, Mauigoa is really smart in his pass sets. He doesn’t over-set, he rarely lunges into his pass rusher. Patience is a virtue in the pass set. The longer the DE takes to engage, the more likely the ball is out of the QB’s hands anyway. Never rush something that requires space to create time.

Mauigoa’s footwork is clean, his balance is amazing. Against SFA pass rushers, which are also top tier prospects, he dominated his man. Their hand fighting, which was well taught, didn’t throw him off. He maintains stability and balance.

In Space

The most fun aspect of Mauigoa’s game is watching him run downfield. Seeing the big hosses rumble is always a treat. Mirabal likes his big guys to be able to pull, block screens, and carry on downfield. I see no issues here with Mauigoa. He’s a Day 1 starter at right tackle for Miami.

Okunlola’s Tape

Samson Okunlola projects to me as a blindside offensive tackle. Per our own Cam Underwood, Okunlola has a wrestling background which explains his next level hand fighting skill. Okunlola has a mean hand and wrist grab against pass rushers basically taking away their ability to slap and rip or push and pull by him.

Tall and lanky, almost like a power forward, Okunlola seems to use a drive-catch technique in his pass setting. In the underwear olympic camps he avoided over-setting like you see on many tapes from high school tackles. He used leverage, balance, and footwork to stay level with his pass rusher.

Areas of improvement: Okunlola needs more posterior chain size and strength. He has great hands from playing defensive line and wrestling, but his competition level was weak. He won’t be able to sling guys in the ACC. Okunlola also needs to stay on his feet instead of falling over on his big blocks.

Hands and Punch

USA Football calls the hand strike position, that athletic position or “GHP” (good hitting position) to be a two point “coil.” Okunlola doesn’t just use his hands well on offense, where he has a vicious punch at contact. He also uses them well on defense, a skill learned from wrestling but also playing D-Line. All of his hand fighting skill is going to come in handy against the grabby D-Line in the ACC (I’m talking about you, Pitt).

You want to see that flat back, big chest, wide-square stance.

Leg Drive

While Okunlola is playing against weaker competition, he kept most of the ‘sling’ and ‘toss’ type highlights off his tape. I cut through the couple that were on there as I don’t find them accurate. That ‘technique’ is all holding calls or not happening in the ACC, anyway.

Like I said above in the hands/punch section- you want to see “coil” or the down-up lift to the strike. That’s how you get under someone’s pads, get them vertical, and take away their power position. From there it’s the Reggie White “bump” Nick Saban loves to talk about (translate to: glutes). That big butt stance with a wide base allows the OL to leg drive and dominate the DL.

Pass Set

Okunlola uses more of a drive-catch technique rather than kick-slide. I am not a proponent of the traditional kick-slide. It’s a pass set only technique so it can’t also be used for run blocking. Now I have to teach two things vs. one with a variation. Kick slide is an unnatural position, where as drive-catch is natural, and re-emphasized in the weight room.

Okunlola does a great job of not over-setting. When his D-End goes wide, he opens the hip but keeps his inside leg inside, and his outside leg in the crotch of the defender. This takes away the DE’s inside move. He also waits for the defender rather than over-setting him or chasing and lunging at him.

In space

Pin and pull, counter wrap to the second level, working to the second level on a combo and a wide pass rush are all here. Okunlola can do it all in space. I would have loved to see a screen in there somewhere but over a five minute tape I didn’t see him run wide on any throws. Okunlola can move in space and Mirabal had to love seeing that on tape.

The Wrap

The two most important signees in recent Miami history are Mauigoa and Okunlola. Two five-star offensive tackles on a roster that lacked elite tackles changes the projection of the offense. Alex Mirabal now has elite talent to play with future NFL guard Jalen Rivers on the line.

Adding the Blue Chip duo to Anez Cooper, Rivers, Jakai Clark and transfer Javion Cohen- Miami might have an ACC caliber offensive line now. Chris Washington, Matthew McCoy, Michael McLaughlin and Jonathan Denis will also battle for playing time against the two rookies to find who the best five are up front.