The Texas Longhorns are hosting Arizona Wildcats transfer defensive tackle Tiaoalii Savea for an official visit over the weekend as head coach Steve Sarkisian tries to add a proven player at the position following the departures of T’Vondre Sweat and Byron Murphy.
The 6’4, 305-pounder entered the NCAA transfer portal on Friday following the recent departure of Arizona head coach Jedd Fisch to Washington. New Texas co-defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Johnny Nansen has close ties to Savea after spending the last two seasons as his defensive coordinator and serving as Savea’s primary recruiter when he signed with UCLA out of high school.
A consensus four-star prospect out of Las Vegas (Nev.) Desert Pines in the 2021 recruiting class, Savea was ranked as the No. 226 player nationally and the No. 31 defensive lineman, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings, after playing along the offensive line in high school. Savea signed with UCLA over offers from Arizona, Auburn, Florida, Florida State, LSU, Miami, Michigan, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oregon, Penn State, TCU, Tennessee, and USC, among others.
In one season at UCLA, Savea made seven tackles in 10 games before following Nansen to Tuscson. With the Wildcats in 2022, Savea appeared in seven games with 14 total tackles (8 solo, 6 assist), including 1.5 tackles for loss, one pass breakup, one fumble recovery, and a blocked kick to help Arizona upset UCLA in the Rose Bowl. As a junior, Savea played in 12 games with 22 tackles, six tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, and three quarterback hurries.
Texas needs help next to fifth-year senior Alfred Collins to allow for the development of young defensive tackles like redshirt freshman Sydir Mitchell and redshirt sophomore Aaron Bryant. The only other clear transfer portal target at the position, former Houston standout Ja’Maree Caldwell, landed at Oregon, but the deep connection between Nansen and Savea should make this a simple recruitment for the Longhorns even without a replacement named for departed defensive line coach Bo Davis.