Football

Palaie Gaoteote Will Bring Starting Experience, Potential to Buckeyes

Every day until fall camp begins for Ohio State we will profile a different Buckeye football player. Today that player is fourth-year junior linebacker Palaie Gaoteote. Yesterday it was offensive lineman Enokk Vimahi. You can find all of the daily Scoop Profiles right here.

Palaie Gaoteote

No. NA | Linebacker | 6-2 250 | Redshirt Junior | Bishop Gorman High School | Las Vegas, Nevada

How’d He Get Here

It was five years, four months, and one day ago when Ohio State offered Palaie Gaoteote. At the time he was just finishing up his sophomore year of high school at Bishop Gorman in Las Vegas. That team was led by quarterback Tate Martell, receiver Tyjon Lindsay, and defensive tackle Haskell Garrett, but there were many who said Gaoteote would be the best of them all. Michigan offered two weeks later and a few weeks after that, USC did the same. For a very long time, the Buckeyes were seen as the favorite. He took an unofficial visit to Ohio State and watched an uninspiring 24-20 victory over Northwestern. Following his junior season, even more schools began offering him, including Alabama, Oregon, and Texas A&M. In somewhat of a surprise, he committed to USC in February of 2017 before his senior season. Gaoteote was the No. 1 inside linebacker in the 2018 recruiting class and the No. 15 overall player. His name appeared in Ohio State’s student directory on June 19 of this year.

Current Situation

Palaie Gaoteote played in 10 games as a true freshman, starting five of them. He finished with 38 tackles and two sacks, frequently looking like the former five-star prospect he was. Gaoteote missed two games that year due to a preseason knee cartilage surgery. He then only played in eight games as a sophomore due to a sprained ankle that nagged him throughout the season. As a junior, he suffered a concussion in the second game of the season. He sat out the next two games and then entered the transfer portal. Gaoteote is now at Ohio State but is still awaiting word on whether or not he will be eligible to play this season. He is not yet listed on the official Ohio State roster. It is expected that he will be granted immediately eligibility and when he is, he could compete for a role in a number of spots.

What to Like

Missing games due to injury in each of his three seasons of college ball is a concern, but maybe the good news for Palaie Gaoteote is that it hasn’t been one consistent injury all three years. Having an ankle sprain and a concussion isn’t really rare for anybody, so it’s hard to throw an “injury-prone” label to a guy who takes a bad step or takes a rough head shot. When healthy, Gaoteote is an aggressive defender with the size to throw his body around. Some of that recklessness may have been part of the problem, however. He is a more experienced player now and brings a veteran mindset to a position that has no returning starters. The Buckeyes have lost their top four linebackers from last year and head coach Ryan Day is looking for new leadership. Gaoteote is stepping into a new situation, but it will be interesting to see what kind of talking his play does on the field.

What’s the Ceiling This Year?

The ceiling this year for Palaie Gaoteote is a starting job as an Ohio State linebacker. What position that means, who knows. The Will and Mike linebackers are interchangeable, so he could be at either of them. Or maybe linebackers coach Al Washington sees him as a Baron Browning or Justin Hilliard type? Maybe he’s a Sam who can do some pass rushing. Or perhaps he’s a utility guy like Hilliard who will do everything you ask — and he’ll do it well. Since the Buckeyes never actually showed a Sam linebacker to the media in practice, it begs the question of whether or not there even is a full-fledged Sam linebacker in this defense.

And Beyond?

Should Palaie Gaoteote be granted eligibility this year, he will be one of four fourth-year linebackers on the roster — joining Teradja Mitchell, K’Vaughan Pope, and Dallas Gant. All four will have another year of eligibility after this year should they want it (and be welcomed back by Ohio State). There is some question about how much of a toll the injuries have taken on Gaoteote’s explosiveness and speed. That will probably be the first question he’ll answer in camp. The next will involve staying healthy. If he is still the potential game changer he was as a prospect, then there is still plenty of time for him to have a bright future at Ohio State.