The Rivals team of analysts don’t always see eye-to-eye especially during rankings meetings. Today, National Recruiting Director Adam Gorney and National Recruiting Analyst Adam Friedman debate whether four-star defensive end Matayo Uiagalelei, who moved up 67 spots in the new 2023 rankings, is still underrated.
Uiagalelei’s sophomore season was shortened to six games because of the coronavirus shutdown but during that abbreviated season he played better than anybody anticipated. The 6-foot-6, 265-pound prospect is explosive off the edge, can live in the backfield, has a knack of knocking down passes or picking them off and his athleticism stands out more than anything.
He’s been so valuable to powerhouse Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco that he’s also used at tight end. With two more years of high school development, Uiagalelei has definitely been incredibly impressive and his versatility is why he should be ranked a little higher.
The defensive end group in the 2023 class is unbelievably deep and talented but I’m not sure there are 20 prospects better – or more impactful – on the football field than Uiagalelei right now.
The short answer here is no but Uiagalelei might have a higher ceiling than any other defensive end. He brings a unique athleticism to the position because he is more comfortable playing in space than the other defensive ends, he has very solid hand techniques as a pass rusher, and he has the skill set to be an excellent tight end as well.
Uiagalelei’s well-rounded game makes him a special weapon for defensive coordinators and we saw glimpses of the type of plays Uiagalelei can make as a defensive end last season. Development will be key for him as everybody tries to understand how ready he is for the next level.