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Wednesday, June 26, 2013
Maloata holds his own at PTP camp

By Blair Angulo

CORONA, Calif. -- ESPN 300 defensive tackle Tashon Smallwood (Fresno, Calif./Central) created quite the stir earlier this week by releasing a list of his top five schools despite a standing commitment to USC. He responded via Twitter to various messages from puzzled Trojans fans wondering why he would name other favorites while reiterating his verbal pledge to USC, which he originally gave on campus shortly after assistant coach Ed Orgeron extended a scholarship offer at the program’s junior day event.

Smallwood isn’t alone, though.

Committed prospects everywhere are keeping an open mind even after settling on a college choice. It’s become a trend in football recruiting, with decisions being temporary and ever-evolving.

Another example is defensive lineman Austin Maloata (Corona, Calif./Centennial), who committed to the Trojans a day after landing a scholarship offer in early May. He remains committed, but falls under the same category as Smallwood.

Austin Maloata
Three-star defensive tackle Austin Maloata committed to Southern Cal on May 4, 2013.
“USC is my favorite right now, but I’m still open,” Maloata said following the Prime Time Polynesian linemen camp last weekend. “I’m going to take all five visits, but I’m still strong on USC.”

Maloata has garnered strong interest from Miami (Fla.), Ole Miss and Washington State, and also holds offers from Arizona State and San Jose State. With the way he performed Saturday in one-on-one drills against ESPN 150 offensive guards Damien Mama (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco) and Viane Talamaivao (Corona, Calif./Centennial), more schools figure to join his list soon.

A quick glance at the 6-foot-3, 250-pound Maloata makes it easy to see why Orgeron and area recruiter James Cregg were impressed. He confidently called out Mama and Talamaivao late in the showcase and promptly backed up his request by splitting reps against the two big blockers.

“They’re really good, so going up against them is going to make me better,” Maloata said. “They have offers from everywhere, so going one-on-one against them is making me better.”

Maloata, who arrived from Samoa earlier this year, is prepping for his first high school football season on the mainland -- a challenge he’s more than giddy about.

“I’m shocked because when I came out here, I didn’t know [Centennial] was that big,” he said. “They make it to state every year. For me to be training with all the top athletes is a true blessing. I’m pumped up to go up against other teams and play as hard as I can.”

Maloata went up against good talent at USC’s lineman camp earlier this month, which left him with a nostalgic feeling. He grew up watching former USC stars Troy Polamalu, Rey Maualuga and Lofa Tatupu on television.

And though he’s still listening to what coaches from other schools have to say, it’s clear Maloata will have to be wowed to decommit from the Trojans.

“It was a great blessing just to actually be on the field at USC, the field I always dreamed of being on,” Maloata said. “When I got there, I was like, ‘This is the field that all the Samoan players played on.’ These are players I play with on Madden. It was crazy. When I got there, Coach Orgeron greeted me and treated me like his son. That made me feel good. All the coaches welcomed me and said hi. I was just grateful for the opportunity they gave me.”