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Notre Dame Football Recruiting: 4-Star linebacker Niuafe Tuihalamaka commits to the Irish

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This is not a Souther Cal Junior

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish added a big piece to its 2022 recruiting class on Saturday with the commitment of California 4-Star linebacker, Niuafe Tuihalamaka.

“Junior,” ultimately chose the Irish over the Texas Longhorns, but he held offers from all over the country, including the Michigan Wolverines, LSU Tigers, Oregon Ducks, and more. Back in February of 2020, Junior committed to Southern Cal, but after a little less than a year later — he decommitted from Troy and set his path towards South Bend.

If you’re starting to let your mind make comparisons to Manti Te’o — I can’t fault you there. Seeing Junior in that blue #5 jersey makes it too easy.

Evaluation from 247’s Gabe Brooks:

Big-bodied defender who physically fits the traditional profile of a classic inside/middle linebacker. Owns the requisite height and college-ready mass with enough space to bulk more if desired. Plenty of snaps off the ball and at times in space over the slot, but also walks up to the edge or into gaps in blitz situations. Physical in all situations with size and strength to play through traffic in the run game. Plays with a fierce demeanor and high motor. Solid tackler who arrives with purpose and generally displays sound technique. Closing speed in pursuit better than expected relative to size and play style. Shows legitimate chase-down athleticism in back-side situations. Most at home playing downhill and pursuing the ball. Fits traditional linebacker roles, but could also play edge, particularly in passing down packages. Production does not jump off the page, especially in impact categories. Plays with functional athleticism on the field but limited verified athletic context suggests need for improved top-end speed and fluidity in change-of-direction ability. Will need to improve in those areas when asked to keep up with backs and tight ends in coverage. High-major linebacker prospect who’s a tone-setter suited best for the box. Could provide personnel versatility in varying down-and-distance situations. High-floor defender who could become a multi-year starter in college and possibly develop into an NFL Draft candidate.

Tuihalamaka is the 15th commitment for Notre Dame’s 2022 class. At the moment, Notre Dame has the #2 class in the country. More importantly though, their Blue-Chip Ratio for this class is over 73%. Most of Notre Dame’s current uncommitted targets for the 2022 class are 4-Stars, so we could see an astronomically high (for ND) BCR come signing day.

Notre Dame Football’s 2022 Commit List (22)

☘️ OL Joey Tanona Indiana 6'5" 280 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 07/25/20
☘️ LB Nolan Ziegler Michigan 6'4" 205 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 08/22/20
☘️ OL Ty Chan Massachusetts 6'6" 275 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 12/2020
☘️ DE Tyson Ford Missouri 6'5" 250 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 01/18/21
☘️ DE Aiden Gobaira Virginia 6'6" 235 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 02/06/21
☘️ RB Jadarian Price Texas 5'11" 180 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 02/21/21
☘️ QB Steve Angeli New Jersey 6'3" 215 ⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 03/04/21
☘️ CB Jaden Mickey California 5'11" 175 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 03/14/21
☘️ LB Joshua Burnham Michigan 6'4" 215 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 03/17/21
☘️ TE Eli Raridon Iowa 6'6" 228 ⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 05/02/21
☘️ TE Holden Staes Georgia 6'5" 230 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 05/07/21
☘️ DT Donovan Hinish Pennsylvania 6'2" 275 ⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 06/04/21
☘️ LB Niuafe Tuihalamaka California 6'2" 235 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 06/19/21
☘️ OL Ashton Craig Indiana 6'5" 283 ⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 06/26/21
☘️ DB Jayden Bellamy New Jersey 5'11" 175 ⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 07/02/21
☘️ LB Jaylen Sneed South Carolina 6'2" 210 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 07/12/21
☘️ CB Benjamin Morrison Arizona 6'0" 170 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 07/15/21
☘️ WR Tobias Merriweather Washington 6'4" 185 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 08/04/21
☘️ OL Aamil Wagner Ohio 6'6" 265 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 11/11/21
☘️ P Bryce McFerson North Carolina 6'1" 175 6⭐️ SAILER 6⭐️ SAILER 6⭐️ SAILER 6⭐️ SAILER 11/21/21
☘️ OL Billy Schrauth Wisconsin 6'5" 300 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 11/9/21

Junior’s commitment means that the Irish now have three blue-chip linebackers in this class — and we still are pretty sure there is room for one more (most likely Jaylen Sneed). Marcus Freeman, Brian Kelly, and Mike Elston have really done a fantastic job so far with this recruiting class, and as we’ve been saying... it will only get better as we fill out wide receivers, add another running back, a safety or two, etc.

It’s still fairly early in the process, but this could end up being Brian Kelly’s best class yet.

2022 Notre Dame Football Scholarship Chart

Position / Year Freshmen Sophomore Junior Senior 5th/6th Year
Position / Year Freshmen Sophomore Junior Senior 5th/6th Year
Quarterback Steve Angeli Tyler Buchner, Ron Powlus III Drew Pyne - -
Running Back Jadarian Price Logan Diggs, Audric Estime Chris Tyree - -
Tight End Eli Raridon, Holden Staes Cane Berrong, Mitchell Evans Michael Mayer, Kevin Bauman - George Takacs
Wide Receiver Tobias Merriweather Lorenzo Styles, Deion Colzie, Jayden Thomas - - Braden Lenzy, Joe Wilkins, Avery Davis, Matt Salerno
Center Ashton Craig Pat Coogan - Zeke Correll Jarrett Patterson
Guard Billy Schrauth Rocco Spindler - Andrew Kristofic, John Dirksen
Tackle Joey Tanona, Ty Chan, Aamil Wagner Blake Fisher, Joe Alt, Caleb Johnson Michael Carmody, Tosh Baker - Josh Lugg
Defensive Tackle Donovan Hinish Gabriel Rubio Aidan Keanaaina, Rylie Mills Howard Cross, Jacob Lacey Jayson Ademilola
Defensive End Tyson Ford, Aiden Gobaira Jason Onye, Will Schweitzer Alexander Ehrensberger, Jordan Botelho NaNa Osafo-Mensah, Isaiah Foskey, Osita Ekwonu Justin Ademilola
Linebacker Nolan Ziegler, Joshua Burnham, Junior Tuihalamaka, Jaylen Sneed Prince Kollie - Jack Kiser, Marist Liufau, JD Bertrand Bo Bauer
Safety Jayden Bellamy Justin Walters Xavier Watts, Ramon Henderson, Brandon Joesph - D.J. Brown, Houston Griffith
Cornerback Jayden Mickey, Benjamin Morrison Ryan Barnes, Chance Tucker, Philip Riley, JoJo Johnson Clarence Lewis Cam Hart TaRiq Bracy
Specialists Bryce McFerson (P) Josh Bryan (K) Alex Peitsch (LS) - Michael Vinson (LS), Blake Grupe (K)
Totals 21/85 (21) 45/85 (24) 60/85 (15) 71/85 (11) 87/85 (16)

If you have followed me over the years, you already know one of my big recruiting bulletpoints is GET ALL THE POLY KIDS. And given the fact that he has spurned our rival Southern Cal, it just makes this commitment all that sweeter. Tuihalamaka is more than just those fun fan things though — he’s a real difference maker at inside linebacker, which is becoming rarer and rarer each year.