After losing Troy Niklas and Alex Welch from the depth chart, Notre Dame needed to restock a position that’s been very kind to the Irish over the past few years. And in adding incoming freshman Tyler Luatua from Southern California, Scott Booker has been given a talented and versatile player to mold.
Notre Dame spent quite a bit of time battling some elite programs for Luatua’s signature. Their reputation as one of the best schools at developing tight end talent helped them land him.
Let’s take a closer look at the newcomer from La Mirada, California.
6'3" 241 lbs.
Luatua only garnered a three-star ranking from Rivals, and fell just outside 247’s Composite Top 247. But his offer list stacks up with just about anyone’s and the Under Armour All-American certainly fits the profile of an elite target, with Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Michigan, Ohio State, Oklahoma, UCLA and USC all chasing Luatua.
Notre Dame won out over the Crimson Tide, where Luatua’s brother is an offensive lineman and Brian Kelly thinks he signed a very good tight end, while acknowledging that he’s a little bit out of profile for the Irish.
“As a tight end he’s a pass catching tight end,” Kelly said.. “No, he’s not the 6'5", 6'6" tight ends that we’ve had, but he is a really good tight end. He can catch the football. He can block for us. He’s going to be able to do all the jobs that we have at the tight end position for us. We think we got one of the best tight ends in the country in Tyler Luatua.”
Like Mike Heuerman, it’ll be very interesting to see how Luatua’s career takes shape. He’s certainly a powerful athlete, as his high school highlight tape shows, and he’s far more than just a tight end. For Irish fans longing for the days of a power fullback, Luatua might be the closest thing to your man on the roster.
Luatua looks comfortable as a lead blocker, motioning out of the backfield, or getting down the field running pass patterns. And in the diverse way that the Irish like to use their tight ends, he’ll have an opportunity to do all of that. Again, he may be undersized, but he’s a rugged athlete that seems to enjoy collisions and the physicality that goes along with the position.
Notre Dame needs more of that on the roster.
If you’re looking for a player that’s ripe for a position switch, Luatua could be an early candidate. Just about every coach that mentioned Luatua around Signing Day used the “big skill” tag, a compliment that tells you that Notre Dame sees a big, powerful football player who may be a tight end... or could play on the other side of the ball as well.
As the Irish offense continues to evolve, Luatua could turn into a versatile weapon. He has the ability to hold up at the point of attack, while also having the bulk and collision skills to play H-back. And for as good as Notre Dame has been at the position, the Irish haven’t had a tight end that worked well as a motion blocker, and then turned up field as a play action weapon.
Luatua’s career in South Bend might be dependent on his teammates. What the Irish get out of Durham Smythe, Huerman and classmate Nic Weishar will likely dictate Luatua’s role on offense. Just like sophomore James Onwualu, who played early at receiver and on special teams, Luatua could be primed to see the field now and find a position later.
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