Coming out of Lompoc Senior High School, Ainuu Taua is a dominant force and rated the number-four defensive lineman in the nation by Scout.
"Well, I'm not very tall and I'm around 6'0" and 285 pounds, but I use really good natural leverage when I play," said Taua. "I like to get to the ball quick and I can move sideline to sideline really well. I play nose guard but I can also play d-end and d-tackle also."
Taua doesn't just play in the trenches as a defensive lineman, however.
"On offense I played tight end and that was pretty cool," he said. "Every once in a while I scored a touchdown and scored around nine or 10 over the past two years. I scored, like, five this year – maybe six – and scored a couple last year too."
Not only has Taua scored from the tight end position, but he has also scored on defense.
"Yeah, I even got a pick last year too," he said. "I got a pick-six and took it to the end zone. It was a cool experience taking it back to the end zone. It was around 30 yards or something like that, and so when I got it my teammates were already blocking for me."
Lompoc Senior High School employs a unique scheme on defense.
"We run a different kind of defense at my high school. It's a 3-5-3 type of defense where we use the safety as kind of like a linebacker type player," Taua said. "Coming into the games, I can tell the other two linemen on my team are more free because I'm being double-teamed."
The nose guard position is such an important one in a three-down lineman system. The player has to be able to dictate and control either side of the center position to free up his fellow defensive linemen while allowing linebackers to flow freely to the ball.
"My coaches tell me that all the time," Taua said. "Like I said, I'm always getting double-teamed. If I start beating the double-team, they start putting three guys on me and it just gives guys a free shot to the ball. It allows my teammates to make plays on our defense."
As a sophomore, Taua recorded 42 tackles and seven sacks in 2011 to help Lompoc to a 14-0 record and a CIF-SS title. In his junior year he's received quite a bit of college interest, including 11 scholarship offers to date.
He's been offered by Arizona, Arizona State, Cal, Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon State, UCLA, Utah, Vanderbilt, Washington and Washington State. Taua is also receiving interest from Florida State, Tennessee, Ole Miss, Wisconsin and BYU.
"I've also talked to BYU as well," said Taua. "They flew down once and that was the only time I talked to them and that was recently. They told me to call them, but I've been busy moving to a new house and haven't really had time. My phone was disconnected and all that."
In that brief time in which he spoke with a BYU coach, Taua learned more about the standards associated with attending the private university.
"They've got some rules out there and a really strict code," Taua said. "They told me things about the school and said they could see me in their defense and things like that."
He has heard of the honor code and the school's standards. The one BYU standard Taua wasn't too keen on was the part about having short hair.
"They did tell me about the hair part and didn't like that part though," Taua said with a laugh. "It's pretty long and down my back. You might want to check out my highlights and check out the hair."
Most of the conversation he had with BYU revolved around the school rather than the type of defense he would fit into at BYU.
"I talked to them a little bit, but mostly about the school and things like that. We didn't really talk about the defense that much."
It does make sense that BYU, which runs a 3-4 defense, would evaluate the top-rated nose guard from California. But the fact that Taua – who is not LDS – is family with former BYU nose guard Romney Fuga has led to more interest.
"Romney is actually my cousin and that's my mom's side," Taua said. "We went to church with them and did some family gatherings and things like that. We went to a bowling alley and did some bowling. I'm not Mormon like he is but I've been out to church a few times. I'll have to talk to him more about things."
His high school coach, Coach Jones, has mentioned that UCLA is more than likely Taua's top school at this time, but he has also mentioned in previous reports that Taua will want to take visits first before making any commitment official.
BYU is looking for defensive linemen to man its 3-4 front. One prospect that has shown up on BYU's radar hails from California and is a four-star prospect. However, if the Cougar coaches are to make an impression, they'll have a lot of ground to make up.