Age (Draft Day): 22
Height/Weight: 6'2", 235 lbs
40 Yard Dash: 4.60 seconds
While not receiving top billing from every recruiting service, Marist Liufau's talent caught the eye of Notre Dame. Rated a 3-star by ESPN and a 4-star by 247 Sports, the Punahou High School product joined the Fighting Irish with high expectations.
Liufau acclimated quickly to the college level in 2020, seeing action in 10 games and contributing 206 snaps across the linebacker position. While primarily focused on learning the ropes, he managed 13 tackles and 10 stops, demonstrating his defensive potential. However, coverage remained a work in progress, with no pass breakups or interceptions, and a quarterback rating allowed of 121.8 when targeted. Despite limited opportunities, Liufau flashed potential as a pass rusher, racking up 4 total pressures, including 2 sacks.
As a sophomore in 2022, Liufau cemented his role as a key contributor, playing 601 snaps in 12 games. His production blossomed with 30 tackles and 15 stops. In coverage, he took a significant step forward, recording his first pass breakup and interception, and drastically lowering his quarterback rating allowed to an impressive 26.5. While his pass-rushing skills are still developing, he generated 11 total pressures and 10 quarterback hurries.
Liufau kept his starting role in 2023, contributing across 595 snaps in 12 games. He posted 29 tackles and 22 stops, while his pass rushing continued to progress with 26 total pressures, including 3 sacks. His coverage continued to improve, keeping the quarterback rating allowed at a respectable 90.2.
Zone Coverage: Liufau is a natural in zone coverage. He reads quarterbacks eyes at a high level, effortlessly dropping into his zone and anticipating routes. His quick feet and closing speed allow him to blanket tight ends and running backs underneath, making him a valuable asset in today's pass-happy NFL.
Instinctive and Quick: Liufau's football IQ is off the charts. He processes plays at lightning speed, diagnoses what the offense is doing before the snap, and reacts accordingly.
Pass Rushing Potential: While not a fantastic rusher at this moment, Liufau's athleticism and relentless motor make him a threat off the blitz. He's adept at using his speed and instincts to find pressure points, and he is adding to his pass-rushing repertoire that could blossom into a dangerous weapon at the next level.
Size: At 6'2" and 235 lbs, Liufau isn't the biggest linebacker in the draft class. He might struggle to hold up against bigger offensive linemen in the run game, especially if he doesn't add bulk.
Over-Aggressiveness: Liufau's eagerness to make plays can sometimes lead him to over-pursue, leaving the Notre Dame defense vulnerable to cutbacks and misdirection plays. Eye discipline and learning to play under control will be crucial for his success in the NFL.
Limited Production: Compared to some of the top linebacker prospects, Liufau's career at Notre Dame was lackluster at best. With only 4 total sacks and 65 tackles in his two years as a starter, he'll need to show he can consistently translate his potential into production on the field.
NFL Comparison: Duke Riley
Liufau and Duke Riley are eerily similar players. Both are undersized linebackers with exceptional instincts and coverage skills. They excel in zone coverage, , and possess the athleticism to be effective blitzers at times. Riley has carved out a fairly successful career in the NFL, and Liufau has the potential to follow a similar path.
Draft Projection: Mid Rounds (3-5)
Liufau's talent is undeniable, but his size, limited production, and occasional over-aggressiveness might give some teams pause. However, his coverage skills, instincts, and untapped pass-rushing potential make him a valuable asset for any defense. The team that lands Liufau in the mid rounds could get a steal, a linebacker who could develop into a solid starter for whoever drafts him.