Notre Dame picked up a huge commitment from Mission Hills (Calif.) Bishop Alemany linebacker Niuafe "Junior" Tuihalamaka.
NIUAFE TUIHALAMAKA PROFILE
Hometown: Mission Hills, Calif.
High School: Bishop Alemany
IB Grade: 4.0 (Top 150 caliber player)
Upside Grade: 4.5
Offers: Notre Dame, LSU, Florida, USC, Texas, Oregon, Penn State, Stanford, UCLA, Tennessee, Nebraska, Arkansas, Colorado, Arizona State, Arizona, Oregon State, Vanderbilt
Recruited By: Marcus Freeman
ESPN: 4-star - No. 97 overall - No. 4 ILB
247Sports: 4-star - No. 120 overall - No. 14 linebacker
Rivals: 4-star - No. 144 overall - No. 5 ILB
Composite: 4-star - No. 112 overall - No. 12 linebacker
Tuihalamaka is a physically advanced player that checked in at 6-2 and over 230 pounds as a sophomore. He has no need to add weight, and moving forward it will just be about reshaping his body, adding more weight room strength and adding explosiveness.
As expected, Tuihalamaka is a powerful young defender. He has a thick, strong lower half, which allows him to arrive at the football with force. His length and natural punch allows him to dismiss blockers with ease and also makes him a strong tackler. As his block destruction technique continues to improve his ability to dominate the run game should become elite.
What wasn't expected, however, was how nimble Tuihalamaka is, and how effectively he's able to fit his big body through thin run lanes. He's not a fast athlete from a pure speed standpoint, but he's agile, far more fluid than I expected and he has impressive short-area quickness and explosiveness.
When you combine that with his high-level instincts, Tuihalamaka is able to cover a lot of ground and get to the football in a hurry. It's impressive how effectively he times up blitzes and run stunts, and his decision making and instincts against the run are special. In that regards he reminds me a great deal of former Irish star Manti Te'o.
The other surprising part of his game was how effectively he gets depth in coverage, and how well he reads routes and makes plays on the ball when playing zone. Tuihalamaka is a strong blitzer inside, and he has traits that should allow him to be an effective edge rusher, which adds versatility to his game.
5.0 - Elite player
4.5 - All-American caliber player
4.0 - Multi-year starter
3.5 - Key role player / Late career-starter
3.0 - Backup
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