Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 55 Kahanu Kia, freshman linebacker, Hawaiian, LDS member

Listed measurements: 6-foot-1, 210 pounds.
2021-22 year, eligibility: A freshman, Kia has four seasons of eligibility remaining, but he is expected to interrupt them with a two-year mission as a practicing member of the Church of Latter Day Saints. Kia will most likely take that mission in the 2022-23 and 2023-24 school years, then returning to Notre Dame as a sophomore for the 2024 season.
Depth Chart: Kia looks and plays like a prototypical middle linebacker, or Mike, where he will be no higher than fourth-string for the Irish this season, behind fifth-year Drew White, senior Bo Bauer and junior JD Bertrand.
Recruiting: The Polynesian Bowl invitee and consensus three-star recruit chose Notre Dame over Utah, where his father played defensive line in the mid-90s. The No. 38 outside linebacker in the class, per rivals.com, Kia had to forsake his childhood dream to end up in the Midwest.

No. 55? NOW?
Projecting the incoming freshmen’s uniform numbers is always nothing but pure conjecture, but there is also always some logic in those attempts. Kia wore No. 8 in high school; Notre Dame does not have a No. 8 on its roster. There was seemingly the possibility of a fit.

But in preparing for the preseason, the media relations team has updated incoming freshmen’s pages on the University website, and in doing so, revealed Kia will be No. 55 this season. The logic? Who knows.

So at the cost of very clearly being quite out of order, Kia shows up now, along with his new number, just as incoming receiver Jayden Thomas did earlier at a belated No. 83. And for that matter, three of the previous submissions are corrected. Defensive end Jason Onye will wear No. 47, not No. 38. Kicker Joshua Bryan will wear No. 91, not No. 37. And defensive back Chance Tucker will wear No. 18, not No. 22, in a truly confounding choice given defensive end NaNa Osafo-Mensah is also listed as wearing No. 18.

NAME, IMAGE, LIKENESS
A wrinkle of the allowance of NIL rights this summer that has not been discussed as much as most other aspects of them, high schoolers are also now able to profit off their names, images and likenesses. The only reason they could not before was the NCAA’s overreach, and now that it has restrained itself a bit, that long-called-for common sense also applies at the preps level.

Which is to say, someday players could be compensated for appearing in postseason All-American bowls, such as the Polynesian Bowl.

WHAT WAS SAID WHEN KIA SIGNED
“Kia has the body to play middle linebacker, but with more coverage skills than usually found there. In that respect, some comparisons to Bo Bauer may be applicable, though Kia is already more disciplined than Bauer was early in his career.”

QUOTES
Per former Irish recruiting coordinator (and now associate head coach) Brian Polian, Hawaiian recruiting extraordinaire, Kia’s recruiting rankings were ones suppressed by the pandemic, as his development would have shown through in a senior season.

“Kahanu Kia, had he had the chance to play a senior year, would have had more than some of the Pac 12,” Polian said in December’s early signing period.

2021 OUTLOOK
Perhaps Kia gets some special teams work this season, but it is hard to imagine Notre Dame deploying him in more than four games and thus costing him a year of eligibility when he will be gone for the next two. Returning in 2024 with four seasons of growth ahead would make the most sense.

DOWN THE ROAD
Not to take the easy way out, but it is impossible to predict what roster Kia will return to in 2024. The Irish have four consensus four-star linebackers committed in the current recruiting cycle, with two of them being among the best inside linebackers in the country.

By the time Kia returns, Niuafe Tuihalamaka (No. 5 inside linebacker in the class of 2022, per rivals.com) and Joshua Burnham (No. 4) will be juniors with two years of development under their belts, while Kia will have been almost entirely away from football for that entire stretch.

If Kia goes on the expected two-year mission — and more power to him for doing so — it may be that he does not contribute until the current recruiting class has worked its way through the program, perhaps in 2026.

In very literal ways, it is impossible to predict what that roster will look like.

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. 91 Joshua Bryan, incoming freshman kicker
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. 83 Jayden Thomas, freshman receiver, four-star prospect out of Georgia
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. 47 Jason Onye, incoming and raw 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. 35 Marist Liufau, junior Hawaiian linebacker
No. 34 Osita Ekwonu, junior defensive end
No. 33 Shayne Simon, senior linebacker
No. 29 Matt Salerno, senior punt returner, walk-on
No. 28 TaRiq Bracy, senior cornerback, possible nickel back
No. 27 JD Bertrand, junior linebacker
No. 26 Clarence Lewis, sophomore cornerback, second-year starter
No. 25 Philip Riley, early-enrolled freshman cornerback
No. 25 Chris Tyree, speedy sophomore running back
No. 24 Jack Kiser, junior linebacker, onetime pandemic hero
No. 23 Litchfield Ajavon, junior safety
No. 23 Kyren Williams, junior running back
No. 22 Logan Diggs, incoming freshman running back
No. 21 Lorenzo Styles, early-enrolled freshman receiver
No. 21 Caleb Offord, sophomore cornerback
No. 20 C’Bo Flemister, senior running back, coming off an offseason with a smirch
No. 20 Justin Walters, early-enrolled freshman safety and likely early special teams contributor
No. 19 Jay Bramblett, junior punter
No. 19 Justin Ademilola, senior defensive end
No. 18 Joe Wilkins Jr., senior receiver, team favorite
No. 18 Nana Osafo-Mensah, junior defensive end, coming back from a knee injury
No. 18 Chance Tucker, freshman cornerback
No. 17 Jack Coan, graduate quarterback, Wisconsin transfer
No. 17 Jordan Botelho, sophomore defensive end, full-speed at all times
No. 16 Deion Colzie, incoming freshman receiver with both speed and leaping height
No. 16 KJ Wallace, junior safety, possible starting nickel back
No. 15 Ryan Barnes, early-enrolled freshman cornerback
No. 14 Kyle Hamilton, junior safety, preseason All-American, top 2022 draft prospect

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