Oct. 14—Believing the best is still to come, the University of Hawaii football team secured a commitment from trend-ascending quarterback AJ Bianco of Saint Louis School.
"I like the coaches a lot, " Bianco said of his acceptance of the Rainbow Warriors' scholarship offer. "I've known them for a while. They've shown a commitment to me since they got here (in January 2020 ). I felt it was time to show my commitment back."
Bianco is expected to put his pledge in writing on Dec. 15, the first day of the NCAA's early-signing period for football prospects.
Despite a limited body of on-field work, Bianco has drawn rave reviews.
"He looks like an NFL guy to me, " said former UH head coach June Jones, who has followed Bianco's progress for several years. "Pocket passer, but he can move and create things, too. He's accurate. I think he's all upside."
Bianco, who was born on Maui, moved to Oahu in eighth grade. He did not play as a Saint Louis freshman in 2018 because of the ILH's transfer rules. After mop-up appearances, he suffered a season-ending injury to his collarbone in 2019. The ILH's 2020 season was canceled because of the pandemic.
"He's only played four (full ) games in his high school career, " Saint Louis coach Ron Lee said, referencing two victories over Punahou and losses to Kamehameha and Las Vegas' Bishop Gorman. "He has a tremendous upside. It's his first season getting out there (as a starter ), and he's done a nice job."
Bianco has displayed a powerful right arm and escapability this year, amassing 1, 148 yards and seven touchdown passes on 63.5 % accuracy. He has rushed for 106 yards and three touchdowns. In the Punahou rematch, Bianco was 30-for-43 for 341 yards and two touchdowns.
"He's got the size, " Lee said of 6-foot-4, 225-pound Bianco. "He's got a big arm. He's real smart. He knows a lot of football, a lot of coverages, a tremendous football IQ."
Brian Huffman, national recruiting editor for 247sports, said there are some similarities between Bianco and Hawaii-reared quarterbacks Jayden de Laura of Washington State and Taulia Tagovailoa of Maryland.
"I really like him, " Huffman said. "I think what hurt him in his recruitment was the lack of a junior season. It's encouraging to see guys, even though they missed such a crucial year, I think their talent speaks for itself."
Bianco also took the initiative of taking unofficial visits to Pac-12 schools in the spring, and competing on the summer's 7-on-7 circuit and football showcases. "He doesn't necessarily have super flashy physical tools, but he's a consistent, what you want your quarterback to be, " Huffman said. "He'll go out there and get the job done."
The Crusaders' volunteer quarterback assistant is Leon Cordeiro, whose son Chevan Cordeiro is UH's starting quarterback and a Saint Louis School graduate. Bianco said he has consulted with both Cordeiros. After discussions with his family, Bianco decided to become a Warrior. He also received offers from Washington State and Nebraska.
"It's kind of been on my mind lately, " Bianco said of his college choice. "I just wanted to get it off my back, so I could really concentrate on this team and this season."
"And focusing on Saint Louis football, " mused Lee, whose Crusaders face Kamehameha on Friday. "Don't forget that."