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Moliki Matavao: “Big Mo” is planning a couple more trips to check out Georgia

Want to attack every day with the latest UGA football recruiting info? Today’s entry offers a first read on 4-star Nevada TE Moliki Matavao. He ranks as the nation’s No. 4 TE for 2021 on the 247Sports Composite ratings.

Moliki Matavao has teammates who will nudge him about not having enough “drip” on the field.

They feel that way because he wears the same ensemble every Friday night. It basically means the same everything. When it is frigid outside, he’s still sleeveless.

He goes with the same pair of everything, including his cleats for a whole season.

There’s not enough flash in his apparel for their tastes. Matavao is just one of those guys who would rather let his film do the talking.

Nobody will chide Matavao about not having enough “drip” on his highlight reel or offer list.

He caught 47 passes for 730 yards and seven touchdowns in 2019. The athletic tight end ripped off an 80-yard touchdown catch among those grabs.

It was all part of a state championship season. His Patriots started the year off with an 0-5 record but then went on to knock off national power Bishop Gorman in the playoffs en route to a state championship season.

Gorman had won the last 10 state titles out of their playing classification in Nevada. Matavao and his Liberty teammates capped off a season of storybook stuff with the school’s first state championship in 2019.

The two-sport athlete also plays the part of the athletic football player on the basketball court. He’ll rip down the rebounds, shadow his man and protect the rim in the paint.

He’s good for about four fouls per game, too.

“I do all the dirty work,” he said.

He’s known as “Big Mo” for all he does for those teams. The 6-foot-6, 238-pounder is certainly already a name to know for the 2021 recruiting class at Georgia.

“Georgia is very high on my list,” Matavao said.

“Big Mo” might just be THE name to know for the Bulldogs at the tight end position for 2021. Georgia tight ends coach Hartley has been keen to remind Matavao of just that.

“It is almost every time we talk,” Matavao said. “He says the same thing with ‘we are only taking one and you’re the one I want’ every time. He said ‘you know I watch your tape almost every other day and I’m in need of a great tight end like you.’ Just the fact that he doesn’t want anyone else makes an impression. He says ‘I want you’ and the emphasis of what he says he wants is what I like.”

Moliki Matavao-Georgia recruiting-UGA recruiting
Nevada TE Moliki Matavao has some family ties to the state of Georgia. He’s the nation’s No. 4 TE for 2021 on the 247Sports Composite rankings. (Moliki Matavao/Courtesy photo)

First and 10: 10 quick things to know about Moliki Matavao 

  1. The phonetics of his name go like this: MO-LI-KEE MA-TA-VOW
  2. Matavao recently released his top 10. He said it was tough to make that list. “Those 10 are the ones I feel like I can see myself at those programs. I will take my visits and get a feel for each school and see how it goes.” Stanford just missed the cut. It was a roll call of some of the biggest of big boys, including Georgia, LSU, Michigan, Ohio State, Oregon and Penn State. 

3.  He visited Georgia last summer for a “Junior Day” event and plans a return trip from April 15-17. He also expects to make another trip AFTER that. 

4.  Matavao has some family history in the state of Georgia. His grandfather was stationed at Fort Stewart near Hinesville. It meant his father grew up playing varsity sports at Liberty County High School. 

5. He wears No. 9. It is not just because it is a clean single-digit number that all players want to wear. He wore No. 81 his first season and he did the math to conjure up his next number choice. 8+1 =9

6. Matavao does plan to enroll early. That means he will be aggressive with his unofficial and official visits over the next few months. 

7. He also plans a summer decision: “I don’t have a certain date but at the latest, I want [to decide] by the first or second week of June,” he said. “So I can focus on summer ball, my senior season to play my game and have fun and then get to enroll early where ever I go.”

8. The Liberty High School (Henderson, Nev.)  standout just visited Oregon this past weekend. He’s planning future visits this month to UCLA, Miami and Penn State. He will see Georgia in April. Ohio State is another possible visit in April. 

9. Football runs in his family. His father played offensive tackle and went on to play at the NCAA Division II level. He had an uncle who took the junior college route on the way to the University of Arizona football team. The former defensive tackle went on to play for the Baltimore Ravens for a short time.

“Football is kind of everything to my family,” he said. “My family has always played football and it is just the love of the game. To have a chance with what I have right now to keep playing is special.”

10. What is he looking for? Matavao broke down his search into four basic criteria: 1) Family environment and brotherhood where he will feel welcomed on the team; 2) The offensive system fit. Blocker? Pass catcher? A lot of both? He wants to have a good sense of his future at his position on his next team. He also wants to contribute to a program with a legit chance of contending for conference and national championships; 3) Family approval. It is ultimately his choice, but he wants to make sure his family feels like he is going to the right place, too; 4) The final aspect is his education. The life after football part of the equation will loom large for the future business major. 

Did you know the weekly DawgNation.com “Before the Hedges” program is now on Spotify as a podcast? Click to check it out and download it. 

Moliki Matavao: Why is he interested in the Bulldogs?

There are recruiters who talk a big game. There are others who go big in their statements and back it up. Georgia tight ends coach Todd Hartley is certainly doing that here with the nation’s No. 4 TE.

As stated earlier, Matavao does feel like Hartley has definitely made him a priority.

“Coach Hartley is a great man,” Matavao said. “He shows a lot of love. He came out to probably five or six basketball games to come and see me. He flew over from Georgia. That just shows how he is doing this. How he’s doing it is really good for Georgia right now.”

To be clear, Hartley was also in Nevada during those contact and evaluation periods to check out 5-star ATH Darnell Washington last November and December. It was fortuitous that Hartley’s 5-star TE signee for the 2020 class AND his top target for 2021 class were both in Nevada.

He must be living right. There are approximately 26 states between Georgia and Nevada. It would be ironic if Hartley finds his 2020 and 2021 tight ends from that same state.

“He was at almost every home game during the visitation period,” Matavao said.

Moliki Matavao-Georgia recruiting-UGA recruiting
Moliki Matavao told DawgNation that he was offered by Georgia in April of his sophomore year. (Moliki Matavao/Courtesy photo)

Some schools have also made an appearance at his basketball games, but not as often as Hartley.

“I’ve had a few more schools visit quite a few basketball games but not as much,” Matavao said. “He’s definitely shown a lot of you know love.”

Matavao told DawgNation that he knows about “three or four for sure” schools that have already earned an official visit. Those schools, for now, will remain private.

When he visited UGA last summer, he was able to see the team work out. His next visit in April will be even more informative.

He plans to watch spring practice to get a real feel for the team.

Are the Bulldogs in the running for an official visit?

“Yes, they are definitely in the running already,” he said. “This is just another chance. I want to see another spring practice. I will definitely be back again. I’m planning probably another two visits to Georgia.”

When asked what he likes best about playing tight end, his answer blends in well with the new Georgia offense under first-year coordinator Todd Monken.

“Either catching a football or just laying another man out in the dirt,” he said. “Pancake blocking. Getting to hit a man as hard as you can but it is all legal. You get to hit him again and again. Those are the best parts of playing for me.”

Moliki Matavao-Georgia recruiting-UGA recruiting
Moliki Matavao does love the physical aspects of being a complete tight end and playing the position in the run and throw game at the next level. (Moliki Matavao/Courtesy photo)

Lasting impressions of that first Georgia trip

Matavao remembers exactly when the Bulldogs offered.

“I believe it was April of my sophomore year,” he said. “I just remember Coach Hartley being in the weight room. I was getting after it. You know how they can’t talk to you when you are in your sophomore year.”

Hartley had to tell the Liberty High coaching staff that he was offered. The message was then relayed.

“I remember that day though,” Matavao said. “I was very hyped that day.”

His last Georgia visit was over a year ago, but it still leaves an impression.

“The first thing that I really thought about as we were leaving Georgia that day was just how Kirby Smart was,” Matavao said. “How he really interacted with my Dad and I. He was a genuine guy. Coach Smart’s son was there. We got to hang out. He’s a family-oriented guy as well as Coach Hartley. That’s what I enjoyed a lot about both of them. I felt totally welcomed there.”

He remembers the team workout. It was a day in the weight room and then gassers for conditioning after that lift.

“I got to see some of the players and how they all worked,” he said. “To see how everyone got after it. That’s a program I want to be about. It is huge to play on a national championship-contending team and that’s definitely somewhere that Georgia is with me.”

He wants to see how Georgia runs in practices in April. That’s on his list. He wants to see how Monken runs the new offense. He wouldn’t mind seeing the Bulldogs throw it “a little more” than before with Monken.

“I just want to sit back and just take it all in,” he said.

That said, he did feel that Georgia and its offensive philosophy already fit the type of system he is looking for at the next level. Remember that part about pounding guys in the dirt? Remember the four fouls per game on the basketball court?

Matavao made it clear that being a dominating perimeter blocker at the next level matters to him.

Does Georgia check off the boxes of those four main criteria he will look to as he makes his decision?

“Yes, they have,” Matavao said.

His father was born in Hawaii, but he was actually raised in Georgia. He played middle school and high school football in Liberty County.

“That’s a good connection to Georgia for him,” Matavao said.

The 4-star TE prospect wants to build trust with these recruiters on the trail.

“There’s the quantity and then there’s quantity in recruiting but I really like the quality of it,” he said. “How they do it is really what I like about it. I had a few schools tell me about it. They say ‘I want to gain trust’ and I had a school tell me they want to get my parents up to see their school first. They said they don’t want me to feel pressured. The recruiter said ‘I want your trust’ and ‘I want your parent’s trust’ to send yourself and for them to send their son here where you feel you can come here and play and perform and be the best player you can be. That is what is definitely huge for me. To have that place where I can develop at a home away from home.”

He’s a plus athlete with a tall and long frame that will certainly add weight and definition. The all-around aspects of his game are definitely intriguing. Especially the hands he shows on tape. There are certainly some strong West Coast schools in this recruiting process with Matavao which will loom large as major contenders.

Yet DawgNation has to like the impression Harley has made so far with the intensity of his recruiting pitch. The expectation that he will also take multiple returns trips to Athens is indicative that he is going to give the Bulldogs a very strong look.

 

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