Thursday, May 12, 2011 | 2:05 a.m.
When Desert Pines High rising senior Cedrick Poutasi walked to the weight-lifting station at a recent testing camp, several of the other players looked at the 6-foot-6, 325-pound lineman in complete awe.
It’s rare, you see, to find a high school athlete with that type of intimidating size.
Poutasi proceeded to lift the 185-pound weight 27 times — well above the national average — in showing why he is one of the Las Vegas Valley’s most sought-after prospects for the class of 2012.
Poutasi, a virtual unknown until the University of Idaho offered him a scholarship earlier this spring, now has 11 offers in becoming one of the most heavily recruited linemen on the West Coast. Rated as a four-star prospect by recruiting website Rivals.com on its scale of five stars, Poutasi has offers from the likes of Utah, UCLA, Washington and Oregon State. UNLV has also offered.
“(The recruiting process) is pretty fun,” said Poutasi, who won’t begin taking recruiting trips until the fall, because he’ll spend the summer getting caught up academically. “At the same time, I have to put in the effort with my grades as well. I still have to put in the work. I don’t have a favorite right now. They are all my favorites. I’ve looked into them all and like all of the programs.”
While it’s Poutasi's size and strength that are most impressive, Desert Pines coach Paul Bennett says his athleticism and footwork help separate him from other recruits.
“Some people just come into their own, and he’s one of those guys who is blossoming at the right time,” Bennett said.
Desert Pines has sent at least one player to the Division I ranks the last four years. Those athletes — Mike Ball (UNR), Michael Cosgrove and Charles Smith (Idaho), Eric Tuiloma (UNLV) and T.J. Atimalala (Army) — have set the standard of putting in the extra work to reach the next level.
Ball, a 2008 graduate who is a reserve running back at UNR, visited spring practice Wednesday and has trained at the Desert Pines facility while on break.
Those athletes give inspiration to Poutasi and others to reach their goals. Atimalala, a weight-lifting fanatic, has been one of Poutasi’s training partners in the gym. The result is a max bench-press of 355 pounds, which is nearly double his lift three years ago.
“When I came to (Desert Pines), I saw all of them working hard and that inspired me. I wanted to be like them,” he said. “Next thing you know, I started working harder than them and getting bigger and stronger.”
Poutasi proudly raises up his shirt to show a relatively chiseled frame — not one you’d see on most typical 300-pounders. “It’s freakish to see somebody his size not look sloppy,” Bennett said.
While Poutasi is receiving much of the accolades, Bennett is quick to point out that he won’t be a one-man show next fall. Allen Vaiao, at 5-foot-10, 270 pounds, is one of four returning linemen for a team that always finds success in the ground game.
Rising senior tailback Leon Hayes led Desert Pines with 893 rushing yards and five touchdowns last fall, and he knows those figures can easily increase with Poutasi’s blocking up front.
“He finishes plays all the time. He just gets his backs to produce yards,” Hayes said.
Poutasi’s brother, Tuileisu Poutasi, is also part of the mix at tight end and defensive line. But Tuileisu Poutasi, also a rising senior, is just 6-foot-1, 165-pounds.
“I’ve asked him if he could give his brother some weight,” Bennett joked.
Poutasi isn’t the lone four-star lineman from Las Vegas drawing interest. Ronnie Stanley, of two-time defending state champion Bishop Gorman, has 22 scholarship offers from the likes of Auburn, Notre Dame and Nebraska.