Ikaika Malloe is no stranger to Kamehameha High School.
Before he played safety and outside linebacker at Washington from 1993 to 1996, Malloe — UW’s co-defensive coordinator and defensive line coach — starred for the Kamehameha Warriors in Honolulu.
Perhaps he saw part of himself in his newest pupil.
Kuao Peihopa — a 6-foot-3, 306-pound defensive lineman at Kamehameha — announced his verbal commitment to Washington on Wednesday.
“I want to thank my family and especially my parents, I love all of you and will continue to represent the name on my back with pride,” Peihopa tweeted. “I would also like to thank every coach that has reached out to me throughout this process, I appreciate you all very much. With that being said, I am honored to say that I am committed to The University of Washington. GO DAWGS!!!!”
Peihopa — who plays on both sides of the ball at Kamehameha — is ranked as a three-star prospect, the No. 30 defensive tackle nationally and the No. 4 player in the state of Hawaii in the 2021 class by the 247Sports.com Composite Rankings. He chose the Huskies over offers from Arizona State, Cal, Nebraska, UCLA, Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon State, Washington State, Wisconsin and more.
And, as his focus narrows on the defensive side of the football, Peihopa’s stock could begin to soar.
“He’s one of those players that we’ve been monitoring very closely for a couple years,” said 247Sports recruiting analyst Blair Angulo in a phone interview on Wednesday. “I remember getting introduced to him after his freshman season. The fact that his rating is a mid-three-star right now I think has more to do with his positional future. We were unsure for a long time if he was going to be a defensive tackle, an offensive guard. If he’s not focusing at one spot, is he going to really excel at that one spot? That was one big concern that we had. He spent so much time on his offensive line work, on his defensive tackle work, that we just never saw him take big, huge steps forward at any one spot.
“But we saw him at a showcase in Hawaii (in Jan. 2020), and yeah, this is a player that definitely has his stock going up.”
In an evaluation following said showcase, Angulo wrote that Peihopa possesses a “broad-shouldered frame with decent length and rock-solid lower half. Very quick hands and explosive at the point of attack. Repeatedly maintains low pad level to push back opponents and charge forward. Tenacious defender that likes to go through blocks. Technically sound with good array of pass-rush moves. Does well to win leverage early and uses length to his advantage. Good offensive line prospect, too, but higher upside on defense given agility.
“Could continue to work on lateral athleticism and solidifying gap integrity. Potential multiyear starter at the Power Five level with chance to garner serious NFL draft attention.”
Besides possessing some mouthwatering measurables and NFL potential, Peihopa’s commitment also addresses an obvious need for UW — which notably failed to sign a defensive lineman in 2020. He’s the Huskies’ third verbal commit in 2021, joining five-star quarterback Sam Huard and three-star cornerback Zakhari Spears.
In a perfect world for Washington, Peihopa’s commitment won’t be UW’s last from “The Aloha State” in the current cycle. The program — which most recently signed Hawaiians Faatui Tuitele, Julius Buelow, Sama Paama, Miki Ah You and Tim Horn in 2019 — has also offered four-star inside linebacker standout Wynden Ho’ohuli, who hails from Mililani High School.
When it comes to the Huskies’ Hawaii pipeline, Peihopa is the latest, but he shouldn’t be the last.
“I think it’s massive,” Angulo said of UW continuing its recruiting success in Hawaii. “From a macro level, he was the No. 1 lineman in the state of Hawaii in this 2021 class. So automatically you lock up the No. 1 big guy in the state of Hawaii, which is known for producing big guys. You add him to a roster that already includes (Hawaiians) Faatui, Sama Paama, guys like Sam Taimani from Utah or Jacob Bandes from California. You’re adding to a position group that’s looking like one of the better ones out west. Then you do it at a place where you want to be successful in the future.
“The pipeline only flows if you continue to nurture it and build those relationships. So to get a Kuao Peihopa, in a couple years there could be a recruit in the 2022 or 2023 class that points at Peihopa as a reason that he’s looking at the Huskies.”
From Malloe to Peihopa, from Hawaii to Seattle, that pipeline continues to produce impressive results.