Ikaika Malloe got us back into the 808 State with a strong DT addition out of his own alma mater, Kamehameha-Kapalama. 247’s Composite lists Kuao Peihopa as a 3-star recruit and ranks him as the #34 DT and the #4 recruit out of Hawaii, but while his recruiting hype hasn’t made the headlines, Peihopa’s tape and measureables make me think we might have found a diamond in the rough. Between his stout 6-3, 285 lb frame, and his natural quickness, power, and developing technique, he has the build to develop into a stout member of our DT rotation.
Peihopa was one of those big body “man-children” that was always big growing up. I got the chance to watch him come through the middle school and JV ranks at Kamehameha when they would play 2 games annually against the teams I coached. He was probably 6-2, 230 lbs by 8th grade, and he was actually a DL/TE up until his sophomore year. He was then asked to flip over to LT/LG to shore up his team’s OL as he had filled out to of 6-3, 305 lbs, and he was a quick study, picking up OL fast enough to win the starting LT job after only one off season at the position.
After spending a year at OL as a sophomore, Peihopa was a full-time starter on both sides of the line as a junior, and something about getting back to DL clicked for him. Not only did he slim down ~20 lbs to 285, which has helped his first-step burst tremendously, but he has also refined his overall game. While somewhat underrated, hand fighting technique is critical for DTs, and it is evident to me that the mix of angles, leverage, and hand techniques are finally coming together where he is consistently playing up to his potential. Unfortunately for Peihopa, and Husky fans, Hawaii did not hold a HS football season this fall, so we didn’t get a chance to see his continued progression, but the development arc for him is very encouraging.
Two-way players with obvious athletic talent and a knack for making plays, like Peihopa, are always strong additions to Husky recruiting classes. Peihopa could probably take a year or two to work himself back into the 300-315 lb range that would put him in the prototypical DT size profile, and it’d be around the size that would let him play into his versatile playing style. Peihopa doesn’t seem to project into the NT or 3-tech categories, and I think he’s further evidence of our continued trend towards a more conventional 4-3-influenced defensive front. With a higher athletic ceiling than Josiah Bronson, a powerful base to anchor the run, and a high motor like Fa’atui Tuitele, Peihopa could be a Swiss Army-knife on the DT in a couple years.
Peihopa is a WOOF I’m excited to see on Montlake.