In a typical defense, there are several key factors that you look for in an inside linebacker. He needs to be able to patrol the field in zone coverage. He’ll need to be able to maneuver the field with a good sense of lateral agility as he reads the quarterback’s eyes. Additionally, a good inside linebacker needs to be a solid option at stopping the run. If he can plug running lanes and locate the ball carrier in traffic, there’s typically a good chance of success. Finally, he must be able to rush the passer and put pressure on the quarterback. Palaie Gaoteote IV, the inside linebacker for the USC Trojans, possesses all of these traits, as I’ll layout in this scouting report.
In this summer scouting report, we’ll examine Gaoteote IV’s background and discover how he found his way to the USC Trojans. Next, we’ll turn on the game film and breakdown strengths and weaknesses in his abilities. Finally, we’ll turn our eyes to a possible decision to declare for the 2021 NFL Draft, and where he would match against other draft prospects.
Attended Mililani High School in Hawaii his freshman year and Bishop Gorman High school in Las Vegas, Nevada. In high school, he was a three-time state champion and two-time national champion. In 2017, he was a Max Preps First-Team All-American, USA Today Second-Team All-USA, and USA Today Defensive Player of the Year. According to 247sports and Rivals, he was a five-star prospect, while ESPN had him listed as a four-star prospect, although he was 18th on ESPN’s Top 300. Prior to selecting USC, Palaie Gaoteote IV had offers that included Ohio State, Alabama, Texas, and Florida. Gaoteote IV signed his letter of intent in December of 2017 and officially enrolled at USC in June of 2018.
As a true freshman in 2018, Gaoteote IV started five games, and appeared in ten, for the Trojans. He finished with 38 total tackles, 4.5 for loss, and two sacks. Palaie Gaoteote IV missed the first two games of the season for USC as he was recuperating from preseason knee surgery.
In 2019, Gaoteote IV battled through ankle injuries, but was able to start seven games for the Trojans. He finished the season with 58 total tackles, including three for a loss. Additionally, He had double-digit tackles in a conference game against Utah.
What I Like About Palaie Gaoteote IV
As with all of our scouting reports here at NFL Draft Lounge, we love to include some game film with our evaluations. Below, you’ll find a couple of clips that best highlight what Palaie Gaoteote IV does so well for the USC Trojans. For the first clip, we head to Provo, Utah for a game against BYU.
Man Coverage and Open-Field Tackling Ability
On this play, we find Gaoteote IV at the top of the screen. He’s in a zone coverage formation as he’s guarding the flat. As you’ll see, he does solid job of moving about the field as he covers the receiver. Additionally, he does a great job of reading the quarterback and reacting quickly. To finish the play, Palaie Gaoteote IV does a fantastic job of making the open-field tackle and making a great play for the USC defense.
Pass Rush and Tackle Range
Palaie Gaoteote IV is lined up as a traditional inside linebacker for USC on this play. As the quarterback snaps the ball, Gaoeteote IV explodes out of his stance and rushes the passer. He does a solid job of penetrating the offensive line, despite the lineman attempting to collapse the gap. As the ball is handed off and Gaoteote IV gets into the backfield, he finds the ball quickly and dives to make the tackle. This is a tremendous effort from a high-motor player.
Ability To Stop The Run
On this play, we’ll find Palaie Gaoteote IV lined up just outside the hashmark closest to the camera. On this play, which is run out of the Wildcat formation, with a skilled player in the quarterback position, Gaoteote IV does a great job of stopping this at the line of scrimmage. One aspect of this play that I want to highlight is Palaie Gaoteote IV’s ability to find the running lane quickly and shutting this play down for the USC defense.
What I Dislike About Palaie Gaoteote IV
On the previous page, we included some game film that best displayed what Palaie Gaoteote IV does so well for USC. On this page, we’ll do our best to show the areas in which Gaoteote IV needs to improve. For the first clip, we stay in Los Angeles for a home game against Fresno State.
Patience To Let Plays Develop
Below, you’ll find Palaie Gaoteote IV lined up on the hashmark closest to the camera. Quite frankly, he’s in the best position to make a play on the ball. However, he bites hard on the fake, as does most of the defense, and puts himself out of position. I just want to see more patience on this rep to let the play develop before attacking the line of scrimmage.
Read and Attack Ability
Below, Gaoteote IV is the inside linebacker in the defense. He’s in zone coverage patrolling the middle of the field. He does a good job of maneuvering across the field while reading the quarterback. As the pocket breaks down, the quarterback climbs the pocket and escapes upfield, putting Palaie Gaoteote IV in a perfect position to make a play. In fact, he’s the last line of defense. However, he bites hard as the quarterback plants his foot and jukes. A play that should have ended at the line of scrimmage ends up being a huge gain for the Bulldogs.
At this current time, I have a fourth-round grade on Gaoteote IV. There is an injury history that might cause some NFL franchises to shy away. To be quite honest, I was hoping to see Palaie Gaoteote IV suit up for USC to disprove any injury concerns. If the PAC-12 does in fact find a way to play a spring football season, I’d certainly encourage Gaoteote IV to take part.
As it stands, I firmly believe that Gaoteote IV matches up well against Charles Snowden of Virginia and Monty Rice of Georgia, both of whom are also mid-round prospects. However, with both of those prospects set to play in a fall football season, that could push Gaoteote IV further down draft boards.
USC linebacker Palaie Gaoteote IV is a smart and athletic player for the Trojans. As a five-star recruiting prospect out of high school, Gaoteote IV had numerous offers from prominent college football programs. Despite injuries that have limited his time on the field, Gaoteote IV has still shown flashes of what makes him great.
With additional eligibility remaining at the collegiate level, he could opt to remain at USC. However, if he does choose to declare for the 2021 NFL Draft, Palaie Gaoteote IV has a skillset that puts him near the fourth round.