Notre Dame eyeing Penn's Moala

TYLER JAMES
South Bend Tribune

College coaches annually shuffle through Penn High School looking for football talent. Only recently did it occur to junior tight end Inoke Moala that those coaches might be interested in him.

Earlier this week, Notre Dame defensive line coach Mike Elston dropped by the school. Last week brought Purdue. By the time the spring evaluation period ends, most Big Ten and MAC schools may pass through as well.

“It's been a huge surprise,” Moala said. “I didn't really know that bigger schools would be looking at me.”

A potential match with Notre Dame doesn’t seem obvious at first with Moala’s 6-foot-2, 225-pound frame not meeting the mold of most Irish tight ends. That size could work at linebacker though, so Elston invited Moala to a Notre Dame summer camp.

“He really likes him athletically,” Penn head coach Cory Yeoman said after speaking with Elston. “They want to see him more at camp. The way he moves and everything else really stands out on film.”

Watch highlights of Moala here.

Moala last fall put together a junior season worthy of gaining attention. He averaged 18.8 yards per catch and caught eight touchdowns for the Class 6-A regional champion Kingsmen.

“He moves extremely well,” Yeoman said. “He's very athletic. His blocking ability and his ability to run routes, catch the ball and have speed at that position has been valuable to us.”

The toughness shown blocking and the ability to make plays after the catch has college coaches wondering if his talents can be used elsewhere too.

“If you're looking at him as a tight end and your mold of a tight end is a 6-5, 260, you can't stretch him,” Yeoman said. “So you can't do anything about that. He'll play tight end in an offense as an H-back so you can move him around and use his skills that way. He's a heck of a drive blocker. Or he can be a linebacker. We just have to continue to work on his linebacker skills.”

The feedback has Moala focused on improving his potential as a linebacker through the offseason and hopefully playing the position more as a senior. By the time summer camps come around — he’s considering trips to Notre Dame, Michigan, Illinois, BYU and Central Michigan among others — he hopes to prove he can play both positions. Then he’ll find out if schools want to offer him.

Moala is currently in his first season playing rugby at Penn, a sport his father played for the Tongan national team.

“Running the ball in rugby, I know it will help me a lot as a tight end,” Moala said. “Tackling also helps a lot. In rugby you kinda have to do all of it, which helps transitioning over to football.”

The start of the offseason brought first team All-Conference and Junior 6A All-State honors from the Indiana Football Coaches Association. But if the attention from college coaches leads to scholarship offers, that will trump all.

"It's a great feeling,” Moala said. “It's really exciting but you can't let it get to your head.”

Top 8 for Masina

A Notre Dame target trimmed down his list this week and the Irish remain in the hunt.

Osa Masina, a 2015 athlete prospect from Salt Lake City, Utah, released his top eight Wednesday night on Twitter. Wisconsin, Utah, UCLA, Arizona State, Michigan, USC, Notre Dame and Stanford made the list.

The 6-3, 225-pound junior rates as a four-star prospect. Rivals ranks him as the No. 5 athlete in the 2015 class and No. 53 overall. 247Sports slates him as the No. 10 outside linebacker and No. 159 overall. Last season he rushed for 1,683 yards and 25 touchdowns as a running back and tallied 57 tackles as a linebacker for Brighton High. Masina visited Notre Dame last summer.

Watch highlights of Masina here.

New offers

A pair of prospects reported new offers from Notre Dame on Thursday.

•WR A.D. Miller, 6-4, 175; Dallas Bishop Dunne: A three-star prospect, Miller picked up his 13th offer from Notre Dame. 247Sports slates Miller as the No. 107 wide receiver in the 2015 class. He also holds offers from Arizona State, Miami and Nebraska. Miller is the teammate of 2014 Notre Dame cornerback signee Nick Watkins and 2015 defensive tackle target Darrion Daniels.

Watch highlights of Miller here.

•DT Sterling Johnson, 6-5, 281; Clayton (N.C.) Cleveland: A three-star prospect, Johnson received an offer from defensive line coach Elston. Rivals ranks Johnson as the No. 22 defensive tackle in the 2015 class. 247Sports slates him as the No. 31 strongside defensive end. He also holds offers from the likes of Alabama, Florida State and Ohio State.

Watch highlights of Johnson here.

Twitter: @TJamesNDI | 574-235-6214 | tjames1@sbtinfo.com

Penn quarterback Zach Oakley, right, celebrates with teammate Inoke Moala (81) in 2012. (SBT Photo/JAMES BROSHER)