Brandon Matich’s prediction proved true.
Before three-star 2021 pass-rusher Voi Tunuufi became the third defensive standout from Salt Lake East High School to sign with Washington in the last five classes, Matich — the Leopards’ head coach — predicted that the pipeline would bear more fruit.
“Voi won’t be the last dude that UW comes and gets from us, because they’re creating quite a pipeline,” Matich told The Times, before Tunuufi officially inked with Washington last December. “They’ve got three of my guys now, if you include Voi. In the 11 years I’ve been at East, only five have gone to the University of Utah, and one was a walk-on.”
On Sunday, UW earned another commitment from the Utes’ backyard, when four-star 2022 defensive lineman Ben Roberts sealed his official visit to Seattle by announcing his pledge. He’ll join East High School alums Tunuufi, defensive tackle Sam “Taki” Taimani and outside linebacker Jordan Lolohea in UW’s defensive front seven.
Roberts — a 6-foot-4, 290-pound defensive tackle — is ranked as a four-star recruit and the No. 37 defensive lineman in the 2022 class by 247Sports.com. He was credited with 85 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks and one interception in 11 games last season, according to MaxPreps.com.
In a written evaluation, 247Sports recruiting analyst Blair Angulo called Roberts “a freakish defensive tackle who moves remarkably well for his size.”
“He flashes a quick first step and powerful countermoves to get past would-be blockers,” Angulo wrote. “A strong defender who generates a big push off the snap, Roberts can squeeze past opponents with his advanced technique. He does well to burst through gaps and holds up blockers at the point of attack in run support.”
Roberts is the Huskies’ sixth verbal commit in the 2022 cycle, but only its first on the defensive side.
“Mom I can’t thank you enough, you worked multiple jobs so I could have a roof over my head, (and) clothes on my back,” Roberts wrote on Twitter. “Last but not least, Dad thank you for always pushing me to be the best, I wouldn’t ask anybody else to be my parents. After everything you guys taught me … everything is paying off. I can’t believe I am halfway there. Love you mom and pops.
“With that being said, with a lot of thought and prayer, I’d like to say I AM COMMITTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON!!”
Roberts chose the Huskies over offers from Virginia Tech, Tennessee, Nebraska, Oregon, Washington State, Baylor, Colorado, Oregon State, TCU, UCLA, USC and more.
And what makes this flourishing Salt-Lake-To-Seattle pipeline all the more impressive is that, per Matich, East High School is located “a seven iron away” from the University of Utah’s practice field.
“I don’t mind my kids going to the University of Utah. I’m a former Ute and I love the University of Utah,” Matich said. “There’s just something that the University of Washington’s staff — it started with Pete (Chris Petersen), and now it’s trickled down to coach (Jimmy) Lake — they just do something different. It’s just a different feel, a different vibe. It’s real. It’s not phony recruiting stuff, and our kids love it. So it’s quite a pipeline that (defensive coordinator and outside linebackers coach Ikaika) Malloe has started up here.”
Two previous UW 2022 defensive commits, Liberty (Nev.) defensive tackle Sir Mells and outside linebacker Anthony Jones, have since withdrawn their pledges and committed to Oregon and Texas, respectively.
Roberts was one of seven recruits to take official visits to Washington this weekend — joined by four-star running back Emeka Megwa, four-star tight end Ryan Otton, four-star defensive back Benjamin Morrison, four-star linebacker Tevarua Tafiti, three-star outside linebacker Lance Holtzclaw and three-star quarterback commit Jackson Stratton.
As Seattle sizzled under its hottest day on record on Sunday, it appears UW’s recruiting is beginning to heat up as well.