Mateos, 4-star Afalava connect

University of Arkansas offensive line coach Eric Mateos' first conversation with highly recruited offensive lineman Darius Afalava created an instant bond between the two and an official visit to Fayetteville is in the plans because of the relationship.

"My relationship with Coach Mateos really started last summer when he was at Baylor," Afalava said. "I do remember exactly when he hit me up when I was at the LSU camp but I could just tell with the way Coach Mateos ... like the way ... not a lot of coaches made a conversation like him. He was just talking about family and the production he wants from me and everything, and that's really where it started. That's why I had interest just in him in general."

Afalava, 6-5, 320 pounds, of Lehi (Utah) Skyridge received a scholarship offer from Mateos on Dec. 11, soon after he was officially hired at Arkansas on Dec. 4. He has 17 other offers from schools like LSU, Michigan, Tennessee, Arizona, Oregon, Utah, BYU, Washington, Nebraska, Stanford and others.

"It's just a blessing, I give credit to the Lord and everything he's done for me and my family," Afalava said of his offers.

While he appreciated Mateos offering him at Baylor, his interest in the Bears wasn't high.

"The only thing really stopping me from going there was the competition, since it's at Baylor, and no diss on Baylor but I just felt like there wasn't a lot of competition out there which is a big reason why I really never had interest," Afalava said.

His interest level changed when Mateos joined the Arkansas staff.

"With Coach Mateos getting hired at Arkansas, I really felt like that's been ... that really put Arkansas pretty high up there," Afalava said. "Just of being in the SEC and having really good chemistry and having good players there before and just having a good relationship with Coach Mateos, I just feel like a that's a big reason on why I would love to see myself playing at Arkansas."

His father Al Afalava was a safety at Oregon State and for the Chicago Bears, Tennessee Titans and Indianapolis Colts.

CBS Sports national recruiting analyst Tom Lemming and Rivals rates Afalava a 4-star prospect.

"He's outstanding, big, athletic, quick," said Lemming, who plans to see Afalava on April 8. "He's the best offensive lineman in Utah."

Afalava is planning to make two unofficial visits to two SEC schools this spring. He said he plans to make an official visit to Fayetteville in the near future.

"As of right now I have two [unofficial] visits scheduled for Oklahoma and Auburn and I think those are the only two I'll be able to go on [in the spring] because of how busy I am," Afalava said.

He set up an official visit to Utah in June on Wednesday. He said Tennessee, Michigan, Michigan State and LSU are other schools he's looking to officially visit.

The NCAA started on July 1 of last year allowing prospects to make an unlimited number of official visits to school. Prior to the new rule, recruits were allowed to take five expense paid official visits.

Afalava, who didn't expect to be so highly recruited, said he may take advantage of the new ruling and visit more than five schools.

"I may try and take as much as I can just to take advantage of this opportunity because I never really thought this would be possible," he said.

He said his communication with Mateos is consistent and reassuring.

"We always talk ball but I also make sure to talk to Coach Mateos about everyday things because I feel like that relationship, like not even as a coach but as people, I feel like that's very important to me just because for me traveling and how away you are away from home really isn't a factor for me," Afalava said. "I feel like if I am going that far away, I need a coach that I can have a great relationship with and Coach Mateos is one of the first coaches where I got that first impression about where he can make me feel comfortable from a far place."

Afalava has a 3.5 grade point average and is most likely going to major in business in college. The highly regarded Sam M. Walton College of Business also helps make Arkansas attractive.

Mateos passed along a video to Afalava outlining everything about Arkansas.

"He sent me a video on everything to know about the school and I watched it," Afalava said. "That's also another thing I look for in a school is life after football and Arkansas has all those things for me."

Afalava had planned to announce his decision in August but is now thinking he'll now do so on signing day in December.

Email Richard Davenport at rdavenport@arkansasonline.com

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