Notre Dame target Sam Taimani staying flexible as recruit
Just tell Sam Taimani where to line up, and he’ll move people out of the way.
The 6-foot-2, 310-pound lineman has been recruited on both sides of the ball by major college football programs. Some prefer him as an offensive guard. Others like him at defensive tackle.
It doesn’t really make much of a difference to Taimani.
“It’s like, ‘If you need me at guard, I’ll play guard,’” Taimani said. “Put me wherever you want. I’ll play it.”
The product of Salt Lake City East High lined up at guard during The Opening Finals at Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, Ore. And that’s where most recruiting services peg him.
Rivals ranks Taimani as a four-star recruit and the No. 12 offensive guard. 247Sports slates him as a three-star recruit and No. 16 at the position.
Handling a position switch wouldn’t be a new challenge for Taimani. As a freshman at East, he played as a 6-1, 190-pound wide receiver. His future at the position was limited — perhaps because he only knew one route.
“I loved running (verticals), because that’s all I knew,” Taimani said.
After being moved to offensive tackle, Taimani started to pile up the pounds. That’s when he decided to “embrace my inner offensive lineman.”
Notre Dame, however, has pursued Taimani as a defensive tackle. Special teams coordinator Brian Polian has led the Irish recruitment.
“He seems like a really good guy and a really great coach,” Taimani said. “I want to see in person how they talk to players. I talked to some of the Notre Dame commits and asked them about it. One of them was (defensive tackle Ja’mion) Franklin. I talked to him and he was just telling me about it and how great it is over there.”
Taimani plans to see Notre Dame in person. He’s been pushing his sister, who’s assisting with the recruiting process, to join him on an unofficial visit in July. Regardless if that trip happens, Taimani said he’s definitely going to use an official visit on the Irish.
Some of Taimani’s information on Notre Dame has come from Brandon Matich. The East head coach attended the Notre Dame Football Coaches Clinic in March as a guest speaker.
“He was telling me all the great things,” Taimani said. “He was showing me photos like, ‘Dude, you need to get out here.’ He’s excited about it.”
When Taimani describes Notre Dame, he doesn’t talk about the school in the same way as many recruits. It’s clear that he’s gained a deeper curiosity about Notre Dame through Polian, Matich and others.
“How it was made,” Taimani said of what interests him about Notre Dame. “How the program was built. How it wasn’t easy back then. It wasn’t easy for Notre Dame. But the rep they’ve grown from the years, it’s just an amazing program.”
Taimani also developed a trust in Polian from the spring evaluation period, which eventually led to a Notre Dame scholarship offer in May.
“I’ve gotten to know him really well, because he was the one who came out during the spring ball and recorded me and told Matich that he would get in touch with me and that he was pushing for me to get offered from them,” Taimani said. “He pulled through. I was just like, ‘That man’s a great man.’ He told me just to be patient. I just listened to him and it paid off.”
Taimani has been listening closely to other schools too. Last month, he released a list of seven leaders in his recruitment: Alabama, Oregon, Tennessee, UCLA, Utah and Washington. He visited Washington in May and listed Alabama, as well as Notre Dame, as a school he definitely wants to see on an official visit.
The Irish don’t typically spend a lot of time recruiting in Utah. Safety Chris Badger was the last Beehive State recruit to sign with Notre Dame in 2010. But the 2018 class has a bit of talent in the state.
Four recruits represented Utah at The Opening: Washington State quarterback commit Cammon Cooper, offensive lineman Penei Sewell, defensive end Cameron Latu and Taimani. All are ranked by Rivals as four-star recruits.
The opportunity to stay home and play for Utah or BYU, especially for a Mormon like Taimani, could be tempting. And family ties are always hard for a school to overcome. Yet Taimani is set on seeing what other options he has before making a decision.
“With my family, they honestly told me to go where I feel is best,” Taimani said. “My sister would love it if I went to the U, but I know that she’ll still support me if I went out of town, went out of state. No matter where I went, they’ve always had my back. I know they’ll support me no matter what.”