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Wednesday, February 5, 2014
DT Nifae Lealao joins Vandy

By Erik McKinney and Craig Haubert

ESPN 300 defensive tackle Nifae Lealao (Sacramento, Calif./Capital Christian) gave some much-needed punch to Vanderbilt's recruiting class on Wednesday.

The nation's No. 243 overall prospect and No. 20 defensive tackle committed to the Commodores, helping new coach Derek Mason salvage some of a recruiting class that was decimated by the departure of James Franklin to Penn State.

Nifae Lealao
Nifae Lealao is the nation's No. 243 overall prospect and No. 20 defensive tackle.
Lealao, a former Stanford commit, pulled from the Cardinal in January and immediately cast his gaze toward Cal, Oregon State, Utah and Vanderbilt. The Golden Bears earned his first official visit following the decommitment, but the relationship Lealao built with Mason while he was the defensive coordinator at Stanford proved too much for the hometown program to overcome.

Lealao took an official visit to Vanderbilt this past weekend, and all signs pointed toward the 6-foot-6, 280-pound lineman signing with the Commodores on national signing day.

What he brings: Lealao is an explosive defensive lineman who should develop into a disruptive interior presence at the college level. He has a big frame that needs to continue filling out, but his stature is very promising and he can get off the ball for his size. He shows flashes of being both a penetrator and a stout presence at the point of attack, and he has the length needed to shed and retain gap integrity. His pass-rush skills require further development, and while he needs to add size, we would also like to see Lealao become more flexible.

Who he reminds us of: Notre Dame DL Stephon Tuitt. Lealao possesses arguably a little better first-step quickness, but you can see some similarities between the two. Both can be a good fit physically as a 5-technique for a base 3-4 scheme, with the size to slide inside. Like Tuitt, Lealao needs to watch his pad level, and he lacks ideal flexibility, but both can create pressure as pass-rushers with speed-to-power moves. They can also be stout against the run with the ability to hold ground, separate and get off blocks.

Potential freshman impact: Vanderbilt is going to like Lealao's size and scheme flexibility at tackle or end the moment he steps on campus, and he has the physicality and overall tools to make a quick transition and contribute right away. A redshirt year might be more beneficial for the end product, as we believe he will be that much more disruptive with added size, particularly on the interior.

How he fits: A standout basketball player in high school as well, Lealao possesses the kind of athletic ability college coaches are now looking for in their defensive linemen. Lealao gives the Commodores a big body up front, which is always important in the rugged SEC. He's capable of sliding virtually anywhere along the defensive line.