Listed measurements: 6-foot-2 ¼, 226 pounds.
2021-22 year, eligibility: Though entering his third season at Notre Dame, otherwise known as being a junior, Liufau has four full seasons of eligibility remaining thanks to the universal pandemic eligibility waiver last year.
Depth Chart: Liufau split time at Buck — now known as Will — linebacker last season with Shayne Simon. Moving forward, both need to prove themselves in front of new Irish defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman while also holding off the possibility of senior Bo Bauer moving over from Mike (middle) linebacker to take some of their snaps.
Recruiting: A consensus three-star, Liufau’s recruitment was more about where he is from than about any ranking. The West Coast pursued the Hawaiian — USC, Oregon and Washington State leading the way — but the University in the Midwest known for its Hawaiian imports won over the No. 36 outside linebacker in the class, per rivals.com.
NAME, IMAGE, LIKENESS
There is 20-year-old Notre Dame lore of the University airbrushing out Chris Thomas’ tattoos in official basketball promotional materials. In recent years, social media posts from official accounts have featured current student-athletes’ tattoos and the stories behind them.
Perhaps the next step is a player securing a sponsorship deal with a preferred tattoo artist. If so, an artist well-versed in Hawaiian-specific designs would be an appropriate starting point.
— Notre Dame Football (@NDFootball) April 22, 2021
CAREER TO DATE
When Liufau arrived in South Bend, his length spurred speculation he could eventually move to defensive end, understandable postulating given how hard it can be to predict how an 18-year-old’s body will mature. Liufau’s leaned out rather than thickened, cementing his second-level defender status.
He appeared in four games as a freshman, logging no stats, before playing in 10 games in 2020. He made 22 tackles with 1.5 for loss including half a sack, his best days coming against the most explosive Irish opponents.
Liufau made five tackles against North Carolina’s dynamic offense, six against Clemson in the ACC championship game and then six more against Alabama in the College Football Playoff semifinal.
Liufau and Simon have different, optimistically complementary, skill sets. Simon’s has long best shown itself in goal-line scenarios, while Liufau’s length works well in space.
Thus, he played a crucial role against the Tar Heels, who started out matching Notre Dame touchdown for touchdown until Liufau subbed in for Simon.
“We’ve got great players and great depth there,” Irish head coach Brian Kelly said after that 31-17 win. “Shayne started us off, but we wanted to do some things tracking the RPOs with somebody that has some real good length and quickness. Marist got in the passing lane a couple times, deflected a ball, was difficult to read, (they) didn’t know exactly what he was doing, and he caused some hesitation on whether there was going to be a pull or a throw. Marist can do that with his length and quickness.
“He was very important with this game plan and developing the game plan for us.”
Both Liufau and Simon will contribute in 2021. This is where the Notre Dame roster presumably enticed Freeman as he weighed various job offers this winter. The snaps split between them, however, will be a question that lasts well into the preseason and perhaps all the way past Labor Day Eve (76 days).
Liufau took 206 snaps in 10 games in 2020. He should see more playing time moving forward, and thus more than 25 tackles, but predicting further is difficult without having a better idea of how Freeman’s scheme will translate to South Bend.
DOWN THE ROAD
Irish linebacker recruiting picked up last cycle and has only gained steam the last few months, but Liufau should have plenty of an edge on those incoming players. Whether or not Simon is around into 2022, Liufau should get a chance to dominate at Will linebacker before his time at Notre Dame is up.
Of course, any Hawaiian starting at linebacker in a gold helmet will elicit certain comparisons, ones that are unnecessary and not necessarily applicable given the differences between middle and Will linebacker duties.
But becoming another Hawaiian contributor at Notre Dame will only further strengthen that recruiting corridor jumping over the West Coast powers.
NOTRE DAME 99-TO-0
Let’s try this again
No. 99 Rylie Mills, sophomore defensive tackle
No. 98 Alexander Ehrensberger, sophomore defensive end
No. 97 Gabriel Rubio, early-enrolled freshman defensive tackle the size of a Volkswagen
No. 95 Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, fifth-year defensive tackle-turned-end
No. 92 Aidan Keanaaina, sophomore defensive tackle
No. 88 Mitchell Evans, early-enrolled freshman tight end, a former high school quarterback
No. 87 Michael Mayer, star sophomore tight end and lead offensive weapon
No. 85 George Takacs, senior tight end, ‘152 years old’
No. 84 Kevin Bauman, sophomore tight end
No. 82 Xavier Watts, sophomore receiver
No. 81 Jay Brunelle, speedy sophomore receiver
No. 80 Cane Berrong, early-enrolled freshman tight end
No. 79 Tosh Baker, sophomore offensive tackle
No. 78 Pat Coogan, incoming freshman center
No. 77 Quinn Carroll, junior offensive lineman
No. 76 Joe Alt, incoming and towering freshman offensive lineman
No. 75 Josh Lugg, fifth-year right tackle, finally a starter
No. 73 Andrew Kristofic, junior offensive tackle, possible backup center
No. 72 Caleb Johnson, early-enrolled offensive tackle, former Auburn commit
No. 70 Hunter Spears, junior offensive guard, former defensive tackle
No. 68 Michael Carmody, sophomore offensive tackle
No. 62 Marshall guard Cain Madden transfers to Notre Dame, likely 2021 starter
No. 57 Jayson Ademilola, senior defensive tackle
No. 56 John Dirksen, senior reserve offensive lineman
No. 56 Howard Cross, junior defensive tackle
No. 55 Jarrett Patterson, the best Irish offensive lineman
No. 54 Jacob Lacey, junior defensive tackle
No. 54 Blake Fisher, early-enrolled freshman left tackle, starter?
No. 52 Zeke Correll, junior, starting center
No. 52 Bo Bauer, senior linebacker, #BeADog
No. 50 Rocco Spindler, early-enrolled freshman offensive guard
No. 48 Will Schweitzer, early-enrolled freshman defensive end
No. 44 Devin Aupiu, early-enrolled freshman defensive end
No. 44 Alex Peitsch and No. 65 Michael Vinson, Irish long snappers, both needed
No. 41 Kurt Hinish, fifth-year defensive tackle, eventual record-holder in games played
No. 40 Drew White, fifth-year linebacker, three-year starter
No. 39 Jonathan Doerer, fifth-year kicker, using the pandemic exception
No. 38 Jason Onye, incoming and raw freshman defensive end
No. 37 Joshua Bryan, incoming freshman kicker