SAN DIEGO – Hercules Mata’afa will be wearing one of 33 uniforms next season – Washington State’s or that of one of 32 professional teams who could select the Cougars’ stud defensive tackle in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Mata’afa’s future appears to be one of the major storyline of WSU’s offseason and WSU coach Mike Leach didn’t provide much clarity when he met with reporters following the Cougars’ 42-17 loss to Michigan State in the Holiday Bowl.
The Lahaina, Hawaii, native and consensus All-American didn’t play in the first half of the game because of his targeting ejection in WSU’s previous game against Washington. The Cougars were staring at a 21-3 deficit when Mata’afa returned in the third quarter. He finished with two tackles, including one sack.
Asked how much the Cougars missed Mata’afa in the first half against the Spartans and if he’d met with the junior defensive lineman about whether he’ll stay in school or turn pro, Leach provided this response:
“Yes, we missed him in the first half and any conversations I have with him on whether he’s coming back or what he’s doing I will share with him and probably not anybody in here. I will tell you when you guys start getting invitations to these meetings and stuff you ask me about, when we ask you to the meeting we’ll probably have some hors d’oeuvres, maybe tea, coffee, might even ask you what you like. But you guys can figure about the time we start inviting you to these meetings is about the time we’re going to tell you this stuff.”
Mata’afa finishes his stellar junior season with 22.5 tackles-for-loss and 10.5 sacks. He led the Pac-12 in both categories and was named an All-American by the Walter Camp Foundation, the Associated Press and Sporting News. He was also named the Polynesian College Football Player of the Year.
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