No, not the French Connection, not the Drug Cartel Connection, not even the cool connections we have at BruinAuthority.com. No, we are talking about the mysterious and top secretive Polynesian connection.
John Plattenburg Jr., a rising cornerback from Texas committed to UCLA November 19, and yesterday announced he was de-committing so he could commit to USC.
We at BruinAuthority.com were not surprised at this. Plattenburg has been mentioning USC for three years, and his mother attended USC. Based on reports, we never felt she was fully supportive of his UCLA commitment. The Washington staff, and especially coaches Hayward and Nansen had recruited him particularly hard. So when Sarkisian and Co. came down to USC and offered him, the writing was on the wall. It is disappointing, in that we thought he might have been a little underrated and could be a real contributor down the road. However, the University has some other outstanding defensive backs committed, and it may even help with a couple of really outstanding guys still looking at us. So while it is a loss, it is not the end of the world.
On the other hand when looking at the big picture, it is indicative of something far more interesting in the recruiting battles between USC and UCLA. That is, the battle for the hearts, minds and letters of intent of the Polynesian community. We don’t know the relationship between Plattenburg and the “Polys” but we know there is a connection. He has frequently used the term “uce” in reference to several Polynesian players, including UCLA commit Ainuu Taua. Uce is a term of family among the Polynesian players.
The Trojan football program has had a very strong fan base among the Polynesian community for a while. Successful players like Troy Polamalu, Junior Seau, Riki Ellison, Rey Maualuga and throwing in a few national championships has given USC a prominent position when recruiting the “Polys.”
The current crop of 2014 southern California Polynesian players (or players very tightly connected to the So Cal Polynesian community) who are committed to or considering USC include Viane Talamaivao, Damien Mama, Toa Lobendahn, John “JuJu” Smith, Austin Maloata, John Plattenburg and a stack of others.
Let’s face it, that is a boatload of talent and whoever gets that pipeline going will reap the benefits. This community supports their football players in a big way and every year has a group of high quality high school players. There are also football camps and clinics specifically to develop Polynesian players.
Here is a pretty cool video taken at one of the Polynesian football camps. Includes Viane Talamaivao, Damien Mama and others you may recognize.
Sark would no doubt like to build a wall around this community this year and for years to come. He has already added to his staff at least two coaches with deep ties to the community. With the popularity of USC in Polynesian circles, it underscores the difficulty of recruiting So Cal Polynesian players for UCLA and everyone else.
This article is not meant to be a warning, or bad news. Heck, we couldn’t have even written this a few years ago. In fact, it is the opposite. The NEW UCLA, with the right marketing, hires, recruiting and winning, can take this community and this is the time to do it. Make no mistake, getting Taua is huge this recruiting season and may help next year, after new coach Kennedy Polamalu has a chance to work his magic, and of course, after another win over USC.
Some notes and takeaways:
- Losing Kammy Delp may not be so bad. He is one of the cornerstones of the Polynesian recruits, would have probably committed to USC upon receiving an offer, and would have helped to “seal the deal” with some of the recruits. The fact that USC did not offer indicates that maybe he is not a USC/UCLA level impact player.
- We are hearing that the new Trojan coaching staff is not so high on Austin Maloata as the old staff. If so, it will be interesting to see how they drop him without affecting their other Polynesian recruits (like his cousin and USC commit Viane Talamaivao). If they don’t handle that well, it could be a great opportunity for UCLA to take advantage of. In the Polynesian community respect and family are very important – if USC mishandles it, who knows what the fallout will be. They may try to get him to grayshirt, citing new “issues” with his transcripts or something of that nature. Then again, USC could just sign him and force him out after his freshman season to avoid any issues with this recruiting class.
- UCLA hiring Kennedy Polamalu was a shot over the bow at USC when it comes to recruiting these kids. It seems like half the Polynesian community is related to Kennedy and if he recruits for UCLA the way he did for USC, it could have some long reaching benefits. We don’t know if he will remain loyal to UCLA and become “our Ken Norton Jr” or return to USC as soon as there is an opportunity, but we like the hire (both the man and the coach) and like the message it sent to the Polynesians.
- We love Angus McClure, but if UCLA ever needs a new D-line coach, we hope they take a look at Chad Kauha’aha’a at Wisconsin. This guy has proven to be a phenomenal recruiter of Polynesian (and non-Polynesian) players. The kids just dig this guy.
- When recruiting these young men and their families, UCLA has a feather in their cap (and should use it), because the University has one of the preeminent Pacific Islander programs in the nation.
P.S. while we love that fans like our ORIGINAL stuff enough to share it, we would really appreciate it if we are given credit. This applies in particular to one certain pay site (you know who you are and fans are paying you to come up with your own ideas. We work hard to write our content so either create your own, or give us credit. Both are preferable to stealing our stuff and implying it came from your anonymous, super secret, high level, supposedly insider, deep throat “sources“).