Notebook: Three Irish signees, Asa Turner to compete in Polynesian Bowl

Carter Karels
South Bend Tribune

Marist Liufau spent the last couple years traveling to the mainland so he could advertise himself as a college football recruit. This weekend will be the opposite — the party will come to him.

Liufau, a Notre Dame linebacker signee, will be among 100 2019 recruits competing in Sunday’s Polynesian Bowl. A Honolulu Punahou product, Liufau will join 25 competing recruits that also played high school football in the islands.

Irish cornerback signee Isaiah Rutherford (#34) and ND target Asa Turner (#20) join Liufau (#10) on Team Makai (blue). ND quarterback signee Brendon Clark (#17) will don Team Makua’s red uniform. CBS Sports Network will broadcast the midnight EST contest from Aloha Stadium in Oahu, Hawaii.

“It’s cool because of the competition and being able to play here in front of all my friends and family,” Liufau said. “To be able to compete with all the best in the nation is pretty cool. And I’m at home.”

The 6-foot-2, 205-pounder is playing strong safety this week and garnered attention with his handful of pass breakups. Liufau competed with his cousin, USC receiver commit Puka Nacua, throughout the practices.

Liufau sometimes lines up on the same side as Rutherford, too.

“He did really well in the one-on-ones,” said Rutherford of Liufau. “He had a couple pass breakups and a pick on the first day. He’s a big, tall guy. He passes the eye test for sure.”

Opposing quarterbacks rarely threw Rutherford’s direction in high school, and reports suggest that’s been the case this week. After not earning an invite to the All-American Bowl or the Under Armour All-America Game, Rutherford aired his frustration on Twitter, tweeting that it added, “...fuel to the fire.”

“Not too much proving anybody (wrong),” said Rutherford on his goal for the weekend. “But I’m super competitive, and I’m going to go out there and play hard.”

Although Rutherford’s late grandfather is from Hawaii, this week was the first time the Carmichael (Calif.) Jesuit product stepped foot on the islands. The Polynesian Bowl offers an opportunity for first-time visitors, like Rutherford, to get a taste of the native food and culture.

All 100 players have been learning the Haka, a group dance that comprises of shouting, stomping and quick movements.

“It is kind of funny to watch,” Liufau said. “Some of them don’t even know what Polynesia is. It is cool to see them trying, and they are actually the ones who try the hardest.”

Interaction with Asa

Eyes aren’t on Turner this week quite like they were at the All-American Bowl. Turner’s time in San Antonio during early January was his first appearance since delaying his decision. Turner, a former commit to the University of Washington, did not sign during the Dec. 19-21 early signing period.

The Carlsbad (Calif.) High product is split between Washington and ND. The Huskies envision him as a safety, while the Irish desire him at linebacker. Turner told ND Insider that he plans to commit “at least one week” before National Signing Day, which falls on Feb. 6.

“He’s still figuring out where he wants to be and play in college and what’s best for him,” said Liufau, who spoke to Turner this week. “I wasn’t trying to pressure him. I was being more understanding and trying to see what he feels like doing. I told him that of course we would love him at Notre Dame.”

As a high school safety, Turner spent his first extensive action at linebacker during the All-American Bowl week. He returned to safety, alongside Liufau, for this week.

“He should be deciding pretty soon,” said Rutherford of Turner. “He’s not sure yet on which school he’s going to go to. Whatever school he goes to, I’m going to support him with it. But yeah, I’ve been talking with him about it. He’s a good dude.”

The 6-4, 205-pound Turner would likely follow a similar path to that of Liufau, as well as Jack Kiser, another 2019 signee. The three linebackers would begin at rover before transitioning to the buck linebacker position. Turner and Kiser played safety through high school, while Liufau played linebacker and safety.

A Hawaii native, Turner moved to Carlsbad during his freshman year. Liufau said a handful of his close friends know Turner.

“I see him in the middle and able to do both (linebacker and safety),” Liufau said. “I see a lot of comparisons with him and me. Being able to play safety or linebacker, depending on what we grow into and what we work on more in college. He’s a big dude, really long and really athletic. He could do a lot of things for Notre Dame or another program.”

Marist Liufau (7), a Honolulu Punahou product, is among three Notre Dame signees playing in this weekend’s Polynesian Bowl.