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Transfer Tracker: USC LB, former five-star Palaie Gaoteote hits portal

Palaie Gaoteote
Palaie Gaoteote (Nick Lucero/Rivals)

The Transfer Portal has changed the landscape of college football. So at Rivals we bring you the Transfer Tracker, where we analyze players entering the portal and rate them on what kind of impact they could make at their new home.

Next up in the tracker: USC linebacker and former five-star Palaie Gaoteote.


CLASS OF 2021 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | Position | Team | State


Despite a national list of offers, Gaoteote didn't let his recruitment play out very long, instead committing to the Trojans during the winter of his junior year and never wavering on that pledge.


Gaoteote's career got off to a good start with the Trojans as he rotated in at linebacker as a true freshman and finished that season with 38 total tackles and two sacks. He also recorded a 71.1 overall defensive grade according to Pro Football Focus. After stepping into the starting lineup in 2019, Gaoteote has a solid year, recording 58 total tackled in eight games, with his PFF grade dropping to 64.3. After a staff change in the offseason, Gaoteote was expected to be a breakout star in 2020, but he played in just two games and had nine tackles before an injury knocked him out of the lineup. He surprisingly entered the portal and will have two years of eligibility remaining at his next school.


Early signs indicate potential mutual interest between Gaoteote and Miami and the relationship makes sense, with two of his former high school teammates already on the Hurricanes roster, including his former USC teammate Bubba Bolden. There's also the matter of his younger brother, Ma'a Gaoteote, a Class of 2021 prospect who was committed to the Trojans but now appears to be heading to Michigan State. Could the brothers land in East Lansing together?


As a former 5 star, Gaoteote certainly had a ton of promise coming out of high school and had his moments at USC. He’s a big kid, a downhill tackler and not bad in pass coverage although he can get lost at times. For someone he’s going to be a plug and play fit and his upside is intriguing for sure. Don’t expect a superstar but a solid contributor and starter at the Power Five level is possible.”-- National Recruiting Director Mike Farrell.

Impact rating: 7.2


The Transfer Portal continues to change the way college football programs recruit and mange their rosters so we here at continue to evolve our coverage. Each time a player of note enters the portal, we will examine their potential impact on the college football landscape and assign an impact rating, both when they enter the portal and when they choose a destination. The scale is from 1-10 and the description below explains the scoring scale.

1.1-4.0 — Not a big impact expected, likely a non-starter and down the bench depth player.

4.1- 6.0 — A solid impact can be expected in the right scenario and has the potential to battle for a starting job.

6.1-9.0. — A high impact player who won’t change a program but will certainly be a very good contributor and starter.

9.1- 9.9 — A very high impact player who should start the moment he steps on the field and will change the outlook of a program immediately.

10 — A franchise transfer who has a chance to be an All American and one of the elite players in college football.