Osa Masina, one of the top running back/linebacker prospects in the 2015 class, narrowed his potential college destinations to a top five that didn't include any teams from his home state of Utah—despite presumed interest in Utah and BYU.
Instead, the No. 81 overall player in the country spurned the Utes and Cougars for a top five of UCLA, Michigan, Wisconsin, USC and Arizona State, per a tweet Masina sent out Thursday afternoon:
Masina is 6'4", 230 pounds, which would be uncommon size for a running back. He is similar in frame to Alabama sophomore Derrick Henry (6'3", 238 lbs), who also had to choose between offense and defense when he got to the college level.
In this regard, finding the best fit for Masina depends a lot on what he wants to play. Most in the scouting community project him as a linebacker, but if he'd rather find a role as a running back or a tight end, he would need to find a school willing to play him there.
Per Greg Biggins of Scout.com, ASU is one such alternative:
Interesting tidbit on Utah ATH Osa Masina, who recently cut his list to 8, said #ASU is one school recruiting him on offense as hybrid TE-RB— Greg Biggins (@GregBiggins) May 13, 2014
For now, though, let's ignore that and regard Masina as a linebacker prospect. That is where all of the big four recruiting services (247Sports, Rivals, ESPN and Scout) have him listed. He fits better on defense than he does on the other side of the ball.
Specifically, he fits better with a team that plays a 3-4 defense. Mike Fletcher of StudentSports.com compared him to Anthony Barr and Kyle Van Noy, two ideal 3-4 outside linebackers, and with the speed and football I.Q. Masina exhibits off the edge, it is easy to see why.
That knocks Michigan off the list, leaving UCLA, USC and Wisconsin as Masina's three best options (since Arizona State wants him on offense). He could do great things in any or all of those systems.
If forced to choose, though, I would say the precedent for running backs playing outside linebacker at UCLA is too good to ignore. One of the players Fletcher compared Masina to, Barr, started his career on offense before becoming a first-round NFL draft pick, and sophomore Myles Jack excelled on both sides of the ball last season.
The Bruins' new defensive coordinator, Jeff Ulbrich, retired from the NFL just recently (2009) and understands the rapidly changing framework of the game. He did a masterful job molding Barr and Jack—not to mention Eric Kendricks and Jordan Zumwalt—into NFL prospects the past two seasons and could do the same for Masina.
And who better for the two-way star to learn from than Jack?
Note: All recruiting info refers to the 247Sports composite rankings
Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT