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March 15, 2012LSU fans will have to get ready for the Tongan Tiger.
For what is believed to be the first time in the program's storied history LSU will have a player of Tongan heritage on its roster after College of San Mateo (Calif.) offensive guard Fehoko Fanaika signed a scholarship Thursday with the Tigers.
"He's a Tiger," said College of San Mateo assistant head coach Tim Tulloch, who plans to fax all of Fanaika's paperwork to LSU on Friday.
More than a month after the start of the national signing period LSU gained its 23rd signee and fourth from an offensive lineman with Fanaika, a 6-foot-6, 340-pounder, ticketed to play guard where he played for the past two years and earned All-American honors.
Fanaika, who graduates from College of San Mateo in July, will arrive at LSU in August for the start of fall camp and have three years to play his two years of eligibility.
"That's still their decision but I think it would be best for him," Tulloch said of his preference to see Fanaika redshirt in 2012. "I think he'll get to phase in and really get to learn the offense and know it instead of having four weeks to know it. That's a tough deal for anyone to try and be up and running at the level of the SEC.
"That's the best conference in the nation and to be up and running in four weeks would be kind of tough for anybody," Tulloch said. "I think it would be good for him in the long run and I think it would be good for LSU in the long run. If he gets to learn it and learn it well I think he can be an all-conference kid two years."
With the signing of most junior college players talk of redshirting is unheard of but in the case of LSU's offensive line, which received a boost with senior Josh Dworaczyk's return for a sixth season, the Tigers will have five players back with starting experience of which three are seniors.
In an earlier interview with TigerBait.com last month Fanaika wasn't opposed to redshirting with the intent of starting his final two seasons.
"They gave me an option to redshirt and I'd most likely redshirt," Fanaika said. "It helps me get used to the speed of the game, catch up on playbook and get ready for the next two years after that. Other schools would let me play right away while LSU gave me a choice. I don't have any problem sitting out."
Tulloch said Fanaika selected LSU over Florida while Hawaii also drew strong consideration.
"It was a really tough decision but when it was all said and done he felt like LSU was the best fit for him," Tulloch said. "He felt comfortable with (offensive line) coach Stud (Greg Studrawa) and felt comfortable with the direction LSU was going. He said it just felt like home."
Fanaika attended Florin High in Sacramento, Calif. and received one scholarship offer from Sacramento State. Fanaika opted for College of San Mateo where he started for the past two seasons, helping his team to an 8-3 record, including a victory in the Bulldog Bowl.
Fanaika said he simply wasn't ready to sign on Feb. 1 and not long thereafter LSU contacted him and offered a scholarship. Studrawa made a visit out to the California campus to meet Fanaika, who agreed to take his fifth and final official visit to the LSU campus two weeks ago.
"We told him not to rush it," Tulloch said. "We said if you don't have a slam dunk thought of something being a perfect fit then you can go ahead and take some time. It's not uncommon for our kids to go past the signing day.
"That's why the visit is so important," Tulloch said. "LSU was an unknown until he got to meet everyone in person. He met coach (Les) Miles, coach Stud and the players. He said he just felt comfortable with the players and coach Stud. You spend the majority of your time with your position coach and strength coach (Tommy Moffitt) and he really liked both of those guys."
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