Four-star LB Solomon Tuliaupupu still considering Notre Dame
SAN ANTONIO — Solomon Tuliaupupu had only been in San Antonio for three days, and he’d already heard from the recruits headed to Notre Dame playing in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
Because Tuliaupupu, a four-star linebacker recruit, is injured, he didn’t arrive in town until Thursday. But that didn’t stop some of the Irish signees from finding him.
“I was talking to (quarterback) Phil Jurkovec,” Tuliaupupu said. “He’s a good guy. (Defensive tackle) Jayson Ademilola, he’s on me all the time. He’s a cool guy. I got to hang out with a few of the future Irish.”
When you’re one of the top linebackers in the country and still considering Notre Dame, that’s the treatment Tuliaupupu should have expected. The 6-foot-2, 218-pound has continued to show interest in the Irish since making an official visit in October to watch Notre Dame beat USC 49-14.
He left campus impressed.
“They played a really good game against USC,” Tuliaupupu said. “On top of that, the way (linebackers) coach (Clark) Lea coaches, I love it.
“He’s very technical with the way he works. That’s what you need to get to the next level. Of course you have to grind, you have to work hard, but at the same time you have to know what to do. You can’t just grind.”
With defensive coordinator Mike Elko leaving Notre Dame for Texas A&M last week, the Irish could be in a tough spot recruiting defensive players in the next few weeks. For Tuliaupupu, who has been recruited by Lea and recruiting coordinator Brian Polian, the Elko departure did little to change his opinion of the Irish.
“I have a stronger relationship with coach Lea, so it didn’t really affect me choosing Notre Dame or someone else,” Tuliaupupu said. "Of course, hopefully the defense doesn’t change up too much because they had a really solid defense this year.”
In December, Notre Dame sent head coach Brian Kelly and Polian to visit with Tuliaupupu and his family. Polian has made sure to keep in touch with him regularly.
“He’s funny,” Tuliaupupu said. “He’s a good guy to talk to. My family loves him. That’s who I talk to the most.”
Notre Dame has leaned heavily on its recent tradition at linebacker in recruiting Tuliaupupu. Following his senior season, he received the high school version of the Butkus Award, given to the best linebacker in the country.
The last two Notre Dame recruits to win the Butkus Award in high school also went on to win the award in college for the Irish: Manti Te’o and Jaylon Smith.
“That’s their main pitch: the linebacker tradition over there,” Tuliaupu said. “They always put that in my head.”
In 13 games, Tulliaupupu tallied 63 tackles, 12 tackles for a loss and four sacks for a Mater Dei defense that allowed slightly less than 15.3 points per game. His season was cut two games short with a Lisfranc injury to the ligaments in his left foot.
247Sports slates Tuliaupupu as the No. 4 inside linebacker and No. 43 overall in the 2018 class. Rivals ranks him as the No. 3 inside linebacker and No. 94 overall.
Pulling Tuliaupupu to South Bend will be a tough task. He still has three official visits available to him with four schools vying for those trips: Oklahoma, Ohio State, USC and UCLA. Tuliaupupu said his focus for an eventual commitment is centered on those four schools and Notre Dame. His first official visit went to Hawaii in September.
Anyone able to get Tuliaupupu to leave California would be bucking traditional recruiting convention. He has a pair of teammates headed to both USC (quarterback JT Daniels and wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown) and UCLA (offensive lineman Chris Murray and wide receiver CJ Parks).
An impending decision doesn’t seem to be weighing too heavily on Tuliaupupu. His plan for the next few weeks is simple.
“I just want to rest up, maybe have some fun, take a few more visits, love up my family and at the end come to a well-thought-out decision,” Tuliaupupu said.
The schools hosting Tuliaupupu will have a chance to trump the strong impression left by Notre Dame. But his interest in the Irish appears to be a lasting one.
“The way their players treat the coaches, and the coaches coach the players, there’s a lot of passion,” Tuliaupupu said. “There’s a lot of tradition that goes into their football program as well as their academic program. They create a lot of opportunities for life after football.”