Marist Liufau was the topic of conversation at fall camp seven months ago. The 6-foot-2, 229-pound had more than flashed his spot at linebacker Will and edge, but a tragic ankle injury sidelined him for the 2021 season as the Irish wrapped up camp.
Liufau is back and healthy this spring, which has the Hawaiian native itching for September.
“It’s so exciting,” Liufau said. “It feels good. It’s been a long time since I played. It’s been over a year since my last game, so I’m delighted to be here training again.”
The time away from the pitch has been difficult, but Liufau has also embraced that and strived to turn it into a positive.
“The biggest change is being smarter in football, knowing why I do certain things and when to do certain things,” Liufau explained. “Like in terms of the D-line and when they move into places and know the attacking formations and what to do when we get a certain look from them.”
Notre Dame’s new defensive coordinator, Al Golden, has been very impressed with Liufau’s roster during his short stint on the job.
“Very, very talented,” Golden said of Liufau. “He’s a talented young man and he’s worked really hard. I wasn’t there for the injury, but I was here for the last month of his recovery and comeback and there’s a lot of people in that. building that hold him in high regard in the way he attacked his rehab and got into position now.
“So there’s probably a lot of guys who would have said, ‘I don’t know if I’ll be there for the spring, maybe I’ll be back in June. But that’s not part of his makeup, so we’re happy to have him and we’re really happy for him that he’s back because he’s been good.
“I can’t imagine he’s slowed down – he’s playing fast. So I’m excited.”
And yes, Liufau has shown Golden that he can be used in many different ways on the pitch.
“He’s got length,” Golden said. “He can trigger. He’s smart. He’s a really, really smart kid. He plays in multiple positions. He can blitz. He can play pass defense and he can get off the edge if we want to.
“There’s a lot of competition in this room and it will sort itself out.”
Liufau has also been impressed with Golden through four training sessions as no detail is overlooked.
“What impressed me was how smart he is, how well he knows the game,” Liufau said. “You can tell he’s been in the game for a long time. He knows what he’s doing.”
Liufau will have his third defensive coordinator, but not much has changed regarding the bigger picture under Golden.
“We have laid our foundations,” Liufau said. “Even though we changed coaches, we still have our fundamentals, like running for the ball, creating chaos for attack, attacking football. Things like that kept us on the right path.”
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