January 29, 2011

Will Fonoti be next great Cerritos tackle at MSU?

Twelve years ago Michigan State coaches traveled to Cerritos College in search of a left tackle that could give quarterback Bill Burke enough time to get the ball to an impressive cast of playmakers that included a trio of NFL draft picks in Plaxico Burress, Gary Scott, and Chris Baker.

The Spartans signed 6-foot-4, 300-pound junior college All-American Siitupe "Tupe" Peko, whom legendary Cerritos coach Frank Mazzotta described as the "best offensive lineman I've ever coached."

A total of 16 players on Michigan State's 1999 roster were drafted by NFL teams. Peko was one of them. And while the soft spoken Samoan did not generate the buzz that T.J. Duckett did on signing day in '99, Peko's addition to the Spartan football program was a critical component in Michigan State's 10-2 season, which culminated in a dramatic win over Steve Spurrier's Florida Gators on New Year's Day.

Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio was the defensive backs coach on Nick Saban's staff when the Spartans signed Peko. As a head coach trying to put the finishing touches on his fifth recruiting class, Dantonio needs a tackle to maintain the momentum gained from an 11-2 season highlighted by the program's first Big Ten championship in 20 years. That is why Dantonio, his offensive line coach Dan Roushar, along with tight ends and tackles coach Mark Staten have spent the time that they have on the West Coast recruiting Cerritos College All-American Fou Fonoti, a coveted 6-foot-5, 295-pound offensive tackle who is ironically the cousin of Tupe Peko and his younger brother Domata Peko.

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