Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 26, 2018

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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42 NOV. 26, 2018 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY DAVID MCKINNEY Notre Dame added the 20th player to its 2019 class Nov. 14, when Ho- nolulu Punahou three-star linebacker Marist Liufau announced his pledge to the Irish following an official visit to South Bend for the Florida State game Nov. 10. The Hawai'i talent, rated by Rivals as the No. 10 player in the state, chose Notre Dame over offers from Arizona, Boise State, Oregon, USC, Utah, Utah State and Washington State. Upon his arrival in South Bend, Liufau will be the third player from Hawai'i on the active Irish roster, along with safety Alohi Gilman and defen- sive tackle Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa. Liufau also comes from the same high school as legendary Irish line- backer Manti Te'o (2009-12). He is the third linebacker in Notre Dame's 2019 class, joining Charlotte (N.C.) Provi- dence Day four-star Osita Ekwonu and Royal Center (Ind.) Pioneer three-star Jack Kiser. Liufau is listed by most outlets as a linebacker, but Punahou head coach Charlie "Kale" Ane said his defen- sive abilities stretch far beyond one position. "Marist is a hybrid of defenders," Ane told Blue & Gold Illustrated. "He can cover, he can blitz, he can tackle and he can take on blockers. "He'll need to get a little bit bigger for the college level, but he's more than capable of playing multiple positions." At 6-3, 195 pounds, Liufau is a rangy athlete that Ane said allows his team to get creative on defense. "We can blitz him off the edge or we can blitz him up the middle if we need to," Ane explained. "We can drop him into coverage, and he's comfortable in space. He really gives us a lot of lee- way to do different things and scheme different strategies." Ane said several area coaches have expressed to him how challenging it is to plan for a player of Liufau's caliber. "He seems to be everywhere on film," Ane said. "Other coaches have to game plan for him, not just on one side but from multiple positions. It's really difficult to run away from him." Ane himself admitted that he's un- sure how long he'd be able to contain his star defender were he tasked with it. "You have to try to make him guess where the play is going," explained Ane. "Run-pass options initially were difficult for him because he wanted to make the plays on the run and in the pass, so he was hesitant, but he learned to do his job and do the one thing we want him to do. "You can scheme him, but he'll fig- ure it out." Position and skill-set wise, Ane com- pared Liufau to a recent All-Pro NFL defender. "He's like [former Pittsburgh Steel- ers linebacker] James Harrison in that he can come off the edge or drop occa- sionally into space," Ane said. "He can do both of those things pretty well." Ane added that having a player like Liufau that can cover so much ground for a defense is vital in today's version of football. "It's the way defenses are now," Ane noted. "You need to adjust to the of- fenses, which are running all over the field and spreading things out. You need people who can run and are com- fortable in space, but still can bring a hit when they need to. "You need kids like him who are multidimensional." Liufau can deliver punishing hits between the hash marks, but Ane said when the whistle blows, the Hawai'i talent immediately stretches his hand out to help up the player he just put in the ground. "He's soft-spoken and very respect- ful," Ane said. "He comes from a great family who taught him the values of being humble and respectful to op- ponents, referees, teammates, teachers and everybody in general. "It's a nice blend of physicality and humbleness." When he arrives in South Bend, Liu- fau will start the next chapter in what is becoming a storied history between Notre Dame football and the state of Hawai'i. For that and other reasons, Ane said the newest Irish commit will gel per- fectly into the Irish program. "I think it's a great fit,"said the Pu- nahou head coach. "The tradition and the legacy of Manti and all the other people who've played is something he's excited to be part of." In terms of where he'll land on the next level, be it on the edge, in the defensive backfield or somewhere in between, Ane said it won't make a dif- ference. Liufau is a skilled player and he'll get right to work wherever he's needed. "I think he'll eventually put on the weight everybody wants him to put on," Ane said. "He'll continue to get better, stronger and faster, and I think he'll be an impact player for the Irish and look good doing it." ✦ COMMITMENT PROFILE MARIST LIUFAU Linebacker's Commitment Continues Hawaiian Pipeline Liufau, the No. 10 player in Hawai'i, chose Notre Dame over offers from Arizona, Boise State, Oregon, USC, Utah, Utah State and Washington State. PHOTO COURTESY LIUFAU FAMILY FILM ANALYSIS Strengths Marist Liufau has tremendous length at 6-3, and he has very long arms … Is a rangy athlete that covers a lot of ground, but he has the foot quickness and agility to change direction with ease … Shows good short-area quickness and power, traits that allow him to project well as an in-the-box defender … Despite overall lack of size at this point, he possesses impressive natu- ral strength and powerful hands … His coverage ability for a linebacker is outstanding. Areas For Improvement He began his career as a defensive back, and there is still room for him to add needed weight and strength … Occasionally arrives at the foot- ball with high pads, which can cause him to miss tackles from time to time … Will have to learn to be a more of an inside defender after spending the past two seasons playing mostly on the edge. — Bryan Driskell

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