”I enjoyed it," Akana said of the visit to Tennessee. "I got to sit down and talk with the coaches. I liked seeing the new facility and how it is going to help the team."
"I got to talk with Coach Chop and Coach Ek the most," he said of the conversation with the coaching staff. "They pretty much walked me through what they seeing me playing in their defense, and how I can impact the team if I was to come to Tennessee.
Tennessee sees Akana as a stand-up edge rusher who can rush the passer but also drop into coverage.
"I definitely see the energy from him," Akana said of Ekeler. "I would say I have communicated with him and Chop the most during my recruitment. They have mainly just told me they like my leadership and the way I play."
Another big reason that Akana has been more interested in Tennessee of late is his growing relationship with Vols quarterback commitment Nico Iamaleava.
"So, Nico and I met at the Polynesian combine," Akana said of this. "Ever since that, we have kind of just stuck together. We are always keeping in touch. Today, he texted me and told me to take it all in and just consider it. He told me the people here are great, and he always tells me every day about the things we can do to change Tennessee and make it great to what it once was."
Akana has nearly 50 offers from many of the nation's top programs, but he noted that he was interested in being a part of a program that was building its way back up like Tennessee.
Akana already has a couple of official visits set, including stops at LSU and Oklahoma, but he feels like Tennessee will likely get one of his three remaining official visits. During this tour of visits currently, Akana plans to see Auburn, Alabama, LSU (unofficial), then Texas A&M, Baylor, and end at Texas.
Akana is still working through his recruitment "day by day", and he currently does not have a decision timeline in mind.
However, he knows what it will take for one school to separate itself from the rest.
"I would definitely say the coaches and the people," Akana said of the main factors in his recruitment. "Just where I can build on the best relationships."
Let’s start with the most recent visitor on campus from Thursday and that’s Utah linebacker Tausili Akana. We will have a full update in the morning but Tennessee is someone that Akana has legit interest in. He speaks with Nico and Francis on the regular and plans on officially visiting in the fall. He wants to come in for a game and be a part of the atmosphere.
After visiting Tennessee for the first time in late July, Tausili Akana recently planned to return to Knoxville last weekend to visit the Vols for their “Rocky Topalooza” event. He wasn’t able to make the trip at the time, but he found his way back to Tennessee on Thursday to begin a weeklong road trip that’s scheduled to take him to seven different schools.
It might not be the last time the four-star Class of 2023 edge rusher from Skyridge High School in Lehi, Utah, visits the Vols. He said there’s “a good chance” he will use one of his official visits to travel to Tennessee again this season for one of its home games, and Thursday’s visit helped the Vols move higher on his list of favorites.
“I’d definitely say (Thursday) they got up there,” said Akana, who’s ranked by 247Sports as the No. 31 overall prospect and No. 3 edge rusher in the 2023 class. “I had some good talks with the coaches, got to build a little more of a relationship, so that’s always nice. …
“I could see them getting an OV from me. There’s a good chance.”
The 6-foot-4, 215-pound Akana said he decided to visit Tennessee again this week because he recently has been talking with Vols coach Josh Heupel’s staff “about every day,” led by defensive analyst Levorn Harbin.
“I’d definitely say the coaching staff, they wanted me to come check it out,” Akana said. “They said they had some stuff to show me, and they just wanted to build a relationship, which I like, so that’s good.
“Also, Nico — Nico is another reason why I came up here,” Akana added, referring to five-star Tennessee quarterback commitment Nicholaus Iamaleava.
Akana said he has known Iamaleava, a rising senior at Long Beach (Calif.) Polytechnic High School, since last summer. The chance to join Iamaleava, Akana said, is “a big part” of his interest in the Vols, “because I want to be comfortable with the people I’m surrounded with.”
“We don’t go too far back, but we keep in touch day to day,” Akana said of Iamaleava. “We met at the Polynesian Bowl combine. Ever since then, we kind of just stuck.”
Iamaleava has talked with Akana about why he likes Tennessee’s program and why he believes Akana should pick the Vols, too.
“He just said it’s special,” Akana said, recalling his conversations with Iamaleava about Tennessee. “He said, ‘It’s special and you’ve got to see it for yourself. And the people that surround it, it’s just unbelievable.’”
Akana said he also knows five-star Class of 2023 offensive lineman Francis Mauigoa of IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., another elite prospect who visited the Vols last weekend with Iamaleava. Akana said he talked “only to Nico this past week,” but he knows Mauigoa “pretty good.”
“I want to say I’ve known him a little longer (than Iamaleava),” Akana said, referring to Mauigoa. “If Nico’s there, Francis goes, maybe, we could start a little Samoan breed there and just get other Polys out there, so that would be good. … I had something come up (last weekend). I wanted to come up with all those guys. It looked like they had a blast (at Tennessee).”
Akana said “spending time with the coaches, honestly,” was probably the highlight of Thursday’s visit. He said he talked extensively with Harbin, Heupel and Mike Ekeler, Tennessee’s outside linebackers coach and special teams coordinator.
“I also did get to see the new facilities that were being built,” Akana said, referring to the Vols’ expansion of Anderson Training Center. “That’s going to be big-time. … Everything (else) looked familiar.”
Tennessee’s coaches told Akana, he said, that they “see me as the Leo,” a hybrid defensive end/linebacker position in the Vols’ system where they typically many of their edge rushers. He said they made it clear to him that he could play a major role in Tennessee’s defense.
“They talked about what I could bring to the table,” Akana said. “They were just saying that I could bring a lot of leadership to this, and they see me just (being) not scared.”
He said he was accompanied on Thursday’s visit by his father, “and then my dad’s brother and his two kids.” They’re set to travel to several more schools over the next six days, starting with a trip to Auburn on Friday. He said he also plans to visit Alabama on Saturday, LSU on Sunday, Texas A&M on Monday, Baylor on Tuesday and Texas on Wednesday.
“These are all places I’ve been before,” said Akana, who has received scholarship offers from more than 45 schools.
LSU is scheduled to host Akana again on an official visit the weekend of June 24, he said, and he plans to take an official visit to Oklahoma. He said he will “probably do the Oklahoma (official visit) in the fall, just so I can come watch a game.”
While his timeline for a decision remains somewhat open-ended at this point, he’s currently not rushing to decide on a college.
“I’ll probably commit during the fall, just so I can see everything, get all my visits done,” Akana said.
LAS VEGAS – Tausili Akana is back from perhaps the most hectic week any recruit will experience this year.
The elite edge rusher from Lehi (Utah) Skyridge spent the last eight days on an epic multi-state trip that included stops at eight different schools.
Georgia drew the first visit to kick off the month of June, followed by Tennessee (Jun. 2), Auburn (Jun. 3), Alabama (Jun. 4), LSU (Jun. 5), Texas A&M (Jun. 6), Baylor (Jun. 7) and, finally, Texas (Jun. 8).
"It was hectic at times, but it was worth it," Akana said. "Being out West, it's hard to see schools so my dad thought it'd be a great experience to be able to see all the places on one big swing. It was great to see it all at once. Our favorite part was getting to really know these coaches, sitting down with them and building relationships.
"I'd definitely say Tennessee, LSU, Texas and Auburn were highlights of the week on the road."
The Vols aren't currently on Akana's official visit itinerary -- the dynamic defender has scheduled weekends with LSU (Jun. 17) and Oklahoma (Jul. 29) -- but they're making a strong push to be included in his future travel plans.
"I'd definitely say the defensive style is a big stand out thing with Tennessee," Akana said. "They're not coming off a good season defensively but I think they could build something there. Nico Iamaleava is going there and that's family, so that's another selling point. I look at that for sure and it's big; I know we could build a Polynesian connection."