Cristobal, Miami win major national recruiting battle for 5-star tackle Francis Mauigoa

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Francis Mauigoa via Twitter
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The Miami Hurricanes’ incredible run of commitments hit a new high point Monday.

Francis Mauigoa, the best tackle prospect in the country, is headed to Miami.

The five-star tackle from Bradenton IMG Academy orally committed to the Hurricanes live on CBS Sports HQ. He picked Miami over the Florida Gators, Alabama Crimson Tide, Tennessee Volunteers, Oregon Ducks and USC Trojans, becoming the fifth blue-chip recruit to commit to the Hurricanes’ Class of 2023 in nine days.

“I don’t like to talk a lot. I like the action. I’m all about the action,” Mauigoa said after committing. “We’re going to bring it back.”

Jaden Rashada, an elite quarterback from Pittsburg in California, kicked off the run by committing last weekend and — until Monday — Miami hadn’t topped it, even when it followed it up with a run of commitments from four-star Edison wide receiver Nathaniel Joseph, four-star Eau Gallie athlete Robert Stafford and four-star IMG Academy tight end Riley Williams.

Mauigoa, however, is an explosive addition, befitting Independence Day. The 6-foot-6, 330-pound offensive lineman is the No. 9 overall player, the No. 3 prospect in Florida and the No. 1 tackle recruit in the 247Sports composite rankings for the 2023 class. He was an All-American last year, according to MaxPreps, and plans to participate in the Under Armour All-America Game in the winter.

Mauigoa is originally from American Samoa, where he helped lead Tafuna to an American Samoan championship in 2020. He also played his freshman season at Aquinas in San Bernardino, California, before he eventually transferred to IMG for his junior year. Last season, he played right tackle and should swing over to the left side this year after Tyler Booker, an elite tackle in the Class of 2022, graduated.

If he signs with the Hurricanes with his current recruiting rating, Mauigoa will be the third best offensive lineman to ever sign with Miami, behind only Seantrel Henderson and Reggie Youngblood, who were both five-star tackles in the Classes of 2010 and 2005, respectively.

Since Henderson, the Hurricanes haven’t signed a single five-star offensive lineman and have only even added three top-100 prospects at the position. Mauigoa will be able to sign his national letter of intent as early as December, during the three-day early signing period.

This, more than any other incredible recruiting feat Mario Cristobal has pulled off so far, is the promise of the new coach. Cristobal was a national championship-winning tackle at Miami, and an accomplished offensive line coach at Alabama and Oregon before he became the Ducks’ coach. As soon as the Hurricanes plucked him away from Oregon late last year, Cristobal started talking about rebuilding the trenches at Miami, both through development and recruiting, and Mauigoa is the sort of prospect he can only land because of his track record at putting linemen into the first round of the NFL Draft.

Most recently, former Ducks tackle Penei Sewell, also originally from American Samoa, went seventh overall to the Detroit Lions in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft.

Cristobal and offensive line coach Alex Mirabal both recruited Mauigoa while they were at Oregon, and their long-standing relationship with Mauigoa helped them win this recruiting battle, as did Cristobal’s emphasis on developing linemen.

“We built a lot of bonds, a lot of relationships. I have big trust in Coach Mirabal and Coach Cristobal,” Mauigoa said. “Playing for a head coach that played O-line — that’s an O-line team right there. An O-line head coach, he’s going to focus your football game on the O-line.”

Mauigoa listed the Hurricanes among his finalists near the start of June, then spent all of last month using all five of his official visits as he tried to speed toward a summer commitment. Although Tennessee hosted Mauigoa for his final official visit last weekend, Miami left a strong enough impression when it brought him to Coral Gables earlier the same week to win this major national recruiting battle.

In the last 10 days, Miami has vaulted more than 30 spots in the national recruiting rankings, from outside the top 40 prior to Rashada’s commitment to No. 8 now. Mauigoa is the first blue-chip lineman to join the Hurricanes’ 2023 recruiting class and the third overall, along with LaSalle tackle Frankie Tinilau and interior lineman Antonio Tripp from Baltimore’s St. Frances Academy.