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National Signing Day 2016: Star RB Vavae Melapeai Flips Commitment to USC

Hawaiian Gatorade Player of the Year stolen right out from under Oregon's nose, makes last-minute switch to Pasadena

Student Sports

With an 11th hour official visit to USC making the difference, Vavae Malepeai flipped his June commitment to Oregon and signed to play football at USC. Earlier this month, Malepeai stood out in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl game, leading the game in rushing with 66 yards on eight carries.

Malepeai, a 5'11 running back out of Mililani, Hawaii, is the second-ranked recruit out of Hawaii this year, and just won the Hawaii Gatorade State Football Player of the Year award after setting the Hawaiian High School football all-time rushing record. In addition to the last-minute contacts with USC, Malepeai was recruited heavily on the west coast and beyond by the likes of Michigan, Nebraska, Stanford, Ole Miss and Washington.

Oregon running backs coach Gary Campbell originally convinced Malepeai to commit to Mark Helfrich's program early, the school where his uncles Silila, Tasi and Pulou starred on the Ducks team that went to the 1994 Rose Bowl. But late efforts by the new USC coaching staff was enough to convince the Hawaiian, who only made official visits to USC and Oregon. He was previously Helfrich's only running back recruit in the 2016 class.

Registering at 195 pounds with a 40-yard dash time of 4.44 seconds, Malepeai has relied on fancy footwork and speed for his high school success. Given his relative youth (he only just turned 17 in the fall) and a deep running back roster at USC, where they are returning their top two leading rushers from last year, there is a reasonable chance he could redshirt with the Trojans.