Going into the final weekend before National Signing Day, Tech was still in need of an offensive lineman or two to round out the class. They ended up getting one from an... unlikely place. Boe Tufele, a defensive lineman from Narbonne HS in Harbor City, Calif. (in the southern part of the Los Angeles metro area), made an official visit to Tech on January 27 and committed a couple days later after receiving an offer.
Tufele’s commitment was somewhat out of the blue in multiple regards. His name had not been connected to Tech much leading up to his visit, and suddenly a couple days later he was committed. On top of that, he told 247Sports that he will be lining up at offensive guard on the Flats even though he played on the defensive line in high school. He’s not the first player to make that switch in Paul Johnson’s tenure, and one does not need to look far to find a success story: Jahaziel Lee, a two-star defensive line prospect in the 2016 class, converted to left tackle and ended up starting multiple games as a true freshman this season.
As a defensive line prospect, Tufele was rated a two-star recruit by Rivals (5.3) and a three-star recruit on the 247Sports Composite rankings (.8207). He had reported offers from Illinois, Hawaii, and a few FCS schools. He did not have reported offers from any schools in California or the surrounding states, but a handful of Pac-12 schools had shown interest in him, according to 247Sports. Tufele becomes the second player from Southern California to commit to Tech in as many years, following 2016 quarterback and San Diego native Lucas Johnson.
All of Tufele’s film is defensive line play, so there are no clear conclusions to draw about his blocking abilities. A few universally positive qualities shine through in his film, though, and those should help him going forward. Tufele moves quickly for a player of his size (he’s listed at 6-foot-3 and 290 pounds), which will be necessary for a guard that has to pull frequently to make blocks on the edge. That size is also ideal—he’s big enough to line up at guard right now. He’s good at using his hands to engage opposing linemen and get around them, and that skill should help him to keep defenders in front of him in college ball.
One area where Tufele will likely need to work hard is in keeping his pad level down. His film suggests a tendency to stand tall when he engages opposing players, which works fine at the high school level but will hurt his ability to gain leverage against college-level defenders. It’s the sort of thing that should come with practice, particularly as he learns cut blocking in fall camp.
What to Expect
Given that he will be learning a new position, Tufele seems very likely to redshirt in 2017 if the linemen stay reasonably healthy. It’s possible that he steps up like Lee did a year ago and becomes a major contributor at guard, but Lee was the exception rather than the rule and was joining the mix at a position where Tech was woefully thin last season. This year, starting guards Parker Braun and Will Bryan both return, as do Shamire Devine and the Morgan twins, so Tufele would have to battle his way up the depth chart to earn playing time. Realistically, he will need time to learn both blocking techniques and his own assignments anyway; if he’s ready to play on day one, great, but if not, the redshirt year will be a huge help for him.
The lack of blocking film makes it tough to project Tufele’s long-term prospects in Atlanta, but his defensive film shows a player with a combination of size and speed that is ideal for a guard in Paul Johnson’s offense. It may take time for him to be ready, but Tufele has the physical tools to become a starter for Tech in the future.