The Cougar coaches have been busy scouring high school campuses across the country looking for undiscovered diamonds in the rough to add to their recruiting board. Coach Poppinga recently went up to Juanita High School and is now in the process of evaluating an LDS prospect by the name of Thomas Toki.
“My stats last year were 16 tackles for a loss, two sacks, and overall I think 56 tackles,” said the 6-foot-1-inch, 289-pound Toki. “I played everything on the d-line. I played nose guard, defensive tackle, defensive end and pretty much everywhere I was needed.”
“Thomas is going to be a junior next year and he’s pretty impressive,” said Juanita High School head coach Shaun Tarantola. “He plays defensive tackle and next year he’ll play offensive guard as well. We’ll expect both [Toki and Paul “Lula” Finau] to go both ways next year. Lula probably has more upside because he’ll be a taller and thicker kid, but Thomas is very thick with broad shoulders. He’s probably the most polished defensive tackle in our league and he’s only a sophomore. He’s only going to get better.”
In evaluating Toki’s film, he possesses a very quick first step aided by a rather fast quick twitch muscle reflex. His ability to get into the pad level of opponents before they can find their base is quite impressive.
“In the offseason I always work with my hand technique with my uncle Kap Sikahema [Vai Sikahema’s younger brother] when I can,” said Toki. “He helps me with my hand-to-hand combat and footwork and technique. He’s over here but he might be moving back to Utah to coach over there.”
With his mentor moving to Utah, Toki just might be moving out to Utah as well to stay close as he continues to strive for personal improvement.
“I might be moving to Utah to go play at Cottonwood,” said Toki. “Kap is going to move out there to go coach, so I might be moving out there to be with Kap and go to school out there in Utah.”
About a week ago, Coach Poppinga was out at Juanita High School taking at look at many of the football players on the roster, one of which was Toki.
“Coach Poppinga liked him a lot. Yeah, he liked him a lot,” said Coach Tarantola. “I sent some film their way and they said they hadn’t seen him. He’s getting a lot of attention right now.”
“This guy is like a freak of nature,” said Finau about Toki. “He’s not really big but he is so strong and so fast. When you see all of our pictures or film of our games, he’s the one that’s first off the line when everyone else is still in their three-point stance. He’s just so quick and probably the fastest lineman I’ve ever seen.”
Because Toki is still a sophomore in high school, he can’t be contacted by Division I coaches until after September.
“I haven’t been in contact with BYU personally, but I know they’ve been talking to my coach now about me,” Toki said. “I know they’re showing interest in me right now but I think they’re still evaluating me and talking to my coach.”
Two colleges that have also reached out to Coach Tarantola about Toki are the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Washington. It also appears Boise State is poking around as well.
“The University of Pittsburg defensive line coach came by and they really like him,” Coach Tarantola said. “I know the d-line coach at UW likes him as well. I think UW is going to hold off as long as they can. The only is Thomas is around 6’0”, so for a defensive tackle he’s a little undersized, but that’s not going to stop schools like BYU or Boise State that really pride themselves on bringing in talented prospects and turn kids like him into fantastic players that other schools passed on because of something like that. If Thomas grows another two inches he’ll become that Pac-12 multi-offer defensive tackle.”
“The Pittsburg Panthers have contacted my coaches recently about me too and so has UW,” Toki said. “UW has been talking to me too. My coach said Pitt is looking to offer me, but I haven’t spoken to them personally yet. It really motivates me to be better. To know that colleges are looking at me makes me want to work harder.”
“Thomas wants to succeed,” said Coach Tarantola. “He’s working so hard in school and has that sense of purpose. Everyday he’s asking me, ‘Hey Coach, what will it take? What will it take for me to be a Division I football player?’ I mean, that’s his mindset and it’s so hard for him not to be the best.”
The one area where Toki will need to improve upon if he ever hopes to receive a BYU scholarship offer is in the classroom.
“Right now, I'm kind of struggling and need to get that up,” said Toki. “That’s one reason why I want to move out to Utah is so I can get my grades up. I’ll be around family out there like Kap that can help me get my grades up. Right now it’s a big focus of mine to take care of things in the classroom first. This is a big motivation for me.”