Francis Mauigoa and Samson Okunlola are not like most freshman football players.
Not many former five-star prospects are.
Both massive young men, described as “elite monstrosities” the day they signed in December with the University of Miami, play offensive tackle.
Francis Mauigoa, 6-6 and 342 pounds with 20.9 percent body fat — the UM record for muscle density — will start on the right side when the Hurricanes open the season against Miami of Ohio at 7 p.m. Sept. 1 at Hard Rock Stadium. It’s an almost unfathomable scenario for a first-year collegian.
“I’m not really worried,’’ Mauigoa said Tuesday about the opener, “because every practice is a game day for me. So, I’ve been to 800 game days already. I’ve prepared myself. The team trusts in me and I trust in the team.’’
The young man from Ili’ili in American Samoa, added this: “Our defense is way tougher than other defenses.’’
The other former five-star recruit is 6-6, 330-pound Samson Okunlola (with 19 percent body fat), who is training as a tackle/guard swingman and could be the first to substitute in the opener if absolutely needed — if, because the Hurricanes want to keep their starting five playing as long as possible.
They were rated the nation’s No. 1 (Mauigoa) and No. 2 (Okunlola) offensive tackles coming to UM in the spring. And on Tuesday, both acknowledged they still have their goals of ending the season as freshmen All-Americans.
“You have to put in more work than you’d even think you could put in,’’ said Okunlola, out of Brockton, Massachusetts Thayer Academy. “It’s always work and believing in yourself.’’
Mauigoa: “This was a big transition — 24/7 football. ... I don’t have time to go visit my family no more. Every day is intense.”
Both apparently have few jitters — if any — about their first college game. Asked if he ever talks about the opener with the other vaunted freshmen, Okunlola, whose nickname is “Pancake Honcho’’ because he’s known for flattening opponents, said, “Not really. We’re more focused on the next practice.’’
“I’m loving it,’’ Okunlola told the Miami Herald on media day. “No real nerves. I’m excited to play, but there’s no ceiling on our limits. We’re going to break the scale.’’
What’s the most impressive thing he has seen Mauigoa do in the weight room?
“Front squat like 500 [pounds],’’ Okunlola said, laughing.
Last week, Mauigoa and his older brother Francisco, a UM linebacker who transferred from Washington State to be near his younger brother, were named to the Polynesian College Football Player of the Year Award watch list.
“Truly a blessing,’’ the freshman said. “I didn’t expect much. Hard work paid off. Kind of humble about it, but truly a blessing.’’
The Hurricanes’ offensive line is expected to be among the nation’s best this season after years of struggling. Coached by Alex Mirabal and head coach Mario Cristobal (a UM national champion lineman in 1989 and 1991), the line, from left to right: 6-5, 330-pound fourth-year redshirt sophomore Jalen Rivers; 6-4, 305-pound fourth-year junior Alabama transfer Javion Cohen; 6-4, 295-pound redshirt senior UCF transfer Matt Lee; 6-6, 350-pound second-year sophomore Anez Cooper; and Mauigoa.
“Jalen Rivers, Javion, Matt Lee, those boys right there are hard workers,’’ Okunlola said. “The way they practice, I try to emulate that — how hard they finish, how hard they run to the ball.’’
Mauigoa said he’s “locked in” with Okunlola. “Him and I will be another best duo coming up on offense. I would describe him as a leader. He’s very active. He don’t show mercy. He don’t show tired. He keeps pushing himself and gets better every day.”
Okunlola said he “just loves’’ the amount of football in his life. “You have meetings, you have walk-throughs, you have practice. I’ve adjusted pretty well and I’m still adjusting to become a master of the game.’’ He said his role will be as “a team player’’ and that branching out to learn guard has been “great.’’
“It’s like going from a lot of space to having no space,’’ Okunlola said. “So, if you can handle space, why can’t you handle no space as well? I’m willing to play guard if the team needs me to.’’
On Tuesday, starting junior defensive tackle Leonard Taylor III said he goes against Mauigoa “all the time.’’
“He’s very athletic,’’ Taylor said. “I’ve never seen an O-lineman move like he can.’’
Said Cooper: “Francis, he’s very smart — way above.’’
Mauigoa will undoubtedly be pumped on game day, but he didn’t seem overly concerned about the fans, though he did say he loves them.
“I don’t play for the fans,’’ Mauigoa said. “I play for my future, for my family’s future. I play the game. If you play for the fans, I mean…
“For me, I stay myself humble and try to play my best.”