The Detroit News continues its countdown of the top 15 Blue Chip recruits for 2017 with Phillip Paea of Berrien Springs at No. 11.
Phillip Paea isn’t among the large group of Michigan recruits who have enrolled early and already taking classes and learning the playbook, but he definitely is working on his game just the same.
Paea feels privileged to be in Hawaii this week, preparing to compete in the Inaugural Polynesian Bowl Saturday night at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu.
Paea, a three-star two-way lineman, is roommates with Michigan-bound linebacker Josh Ross (Orchard Lake St. Mary’s) during the weeklong trip, and teammates with Michigan-bound quarterback and five-star recruit Dylan McCaffrey.
This is Paea’s first trip to Hawaii and he’s enjoying every second of it, even the six-hour flight from Salt Lake City where he watched a few movies, including Mark Wahlberg in "Deepwater Horizon."
“There’s a lot of talent everywhere, a bunch of Polynesian kids who are Division I players and I’m really excited to be here,” said Paea after practice Wednesday. “We have a curfew of 11, but they're giving us a couple of free hours to just walk around the city, go to the beach and just hang out.”
Paea enjoyed a strong senior season at Berrien Springs, playing guard and splitting time at defensive end and defensive tackle. He helped open holes for his teammates to rush for 3,242 yards and 48 touchdowns while also getting in on 53 tackles, earning a spot on The Detroit News Dream Team while being No. 11 on the Blue Chip list.
Paea ended up picking the Wolverines over Notre Dame, USC, Miami, Oregon, Brigham Young, Nebraska and Michigan State.
“I want to grow as much as I can as a student and player and win as many championships as I can,” said Paea of his future at Michigan, where he was recruited as a defensive tackle.
Paea grew during his high school career. He was a fullback and linebacker as a 6-foot-3, 225-pound freshman, then a linebacker and guard his sophomore year, a defensive end and guard his junior year before moving to defensive tackle at 6-4, 305 this season.
“He has great athleticism for a kid his size,” Berrien Springs coach Tony Scaccia said. “He has tremendous feet and is a good all-around athlete. The biggest thing for him is we’ve moved him around because he’s physically grown.
“He put on 20 pounds from his junior to senior year and played at 305. He did a great job of clogging up the middle on defense his senior year; our opponents were limited to just 51 yards rushing a game.”
Paea talked about the transition from defensive end to defensive tackle. He said the 33-27 win over Buchanan stood out during his senior year, as did the 14-7 Division 5 district title win over Dowagiac.
“I think my biggest improvement from my junior year to senior season was the way I got off the ball,” Paea said. “You use your hands a lot more at defensive tackle. It’s just about having a good, strong base, that’s the main point and I felt it came naturally for me.”
Paea said he could bench 200 pounds his freshman year, but can now bench 315 pounds and max 225 pounds 14 times. He feels ready to compete at the college level and is ready to get on the Big House field.
"I think the sky's the limit," Scaccia said. "Garett Tujague, who was the offensive line coach at BYU and is now at Virginia, told me that he believed Phillip would be a Sunday player (NFL) at center so I really do believe the sky's the limit. They're just going to have to figure out where they want to play him."
DETROIT NEWS BLUE CHIP LIST COUNTDOWN
No. 11 Phillip Paea, DT, Berrien Springs (Michigan)