Sat. January 7, 2012 |
Will Latu, a former Gibbs player and the top-rated junior college offensive lineman in the country according to Rivals, is no longer headed to the Southeastern Conference and has already scheduled a visit to Florida State next weekend.
Latu has re-opened his recruiting after a poor academic semester in the fall left him unable to qualify to enroll at Auburn, where he had verbally committed in July, in time to join the team for the summer workouts.
He said he failed some classes in the fall, and while he still expects to graduate in the spring, making up those classes to be eligible in the SEC would take up half his summer.
"It's just a whole bunch of hassle,'' he said. "I'm not saying I can't do it, but with another school I can graduate in May and be there in June,'' said Latu. "If I were to stay with Auburn I wouldn't graduate until the summer and not get there until August, and everything would be rushed.''
Latu said he is disappointed and isn't backing away from Auburn for any other reason.
The 6-foot-5, 320-pound tackle, is the No. 7 overall juco recruit in the country. He is currently enrolled at the College of Canyons in Santa Clarita, Calif..
He will visit Tallahassee with one of his three remaining visits. Latu is deciding between Oklahoma, Oregon, Arizona State and USC for the others.
Having already weathered a firestorm of criticism from West Virginia fans after committing to the Mountainers and changing his mind, Latu is now bracing for more of the same from Tiger fans.
"It's going to be ridiculous,'' Latu said. "But I know I can go through it. I went through with West Virginia. But this is just something I have to do. It's what's best for me.''
Latu only played one season of high school football at Gibbs. The only school interested in him at the next level was Northern State University, a Division II school in Aberdeen, S.D.
After being redshirted and discovering the scholarship offered barely covered his costs, he transferred to the College of Canyons, where his financial struggles continued to prove a distraction.
But he developed into the best offensive lineman in the junior college ranks, and had his pick of major BCS schools. Latu said he was devastated to learn he would not qualify academically at Auburn.
He confesses to looking ahead to finishing a tough two-year run at College of the Canyons, to the point where he stopped paying attention in class.
"At the beginning of it, I was pretty upset. I was back at square one,'' he said. "I pretty much hit rock bottom. I talked to my parents, and they just encouraged me to keep going. I guess I was caught up in the anticipation of getting out here, instead of using it more like motivation to keep pushing. But everybody makes mistakes. I'm just trying to learn from them now.''
Latu is taking five classes in the spring, and insists he will pass them all.
"I know I gotta stop messing around,'' he said.