Notre Dame starting linebacker Marist Liufau lost for season with right ankle injury

Tyler James
ND Insider
Notre Dame linebacker Marist Liufau will miss the 2021 season following a right ankle injury suffered in practice last week.

The injury Marist Liufau suffered in last Wednesday's practice has been deemed season ending.

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said Liufau, Notre Dame's projected starter at Will linebacker, had surgery Monday morning for a break and dislocation in his right ankle.

"It was a fairly significant injury," Kelly said. "His spirits are great. Our medical team feels great about the recovery and his ability to come back here and be 100%."

Liufau was set to become a key piece in Notre Dame’s defense this season. 

The 6-foot-2, 229-pound junior showed throughout preseason practice that he was ready to take on a bigger role than he played in 2020. Last season, Liufau played in 10 games, started three of them and totaled 22 tackles. 

But Liufau separated himself from senior Shayne Simon, who started eight games last season, and junior JD Bertrand throughout the preseason as the top option at Will. 

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“He’s playing within himself a lot better in terms of what he’s asked to do,” Kelly said of Liufau earlier this month. “The discipline at that position is really crucial and he’s shown that. That’s a maturity in terms of playing the game.  

“Marist would tell you that he played outside the lines a lot. That was probably one of the things that he knew he had to get better at.  

“And he’s stronger. You see what he looks like. All those other things are coming together. He’s a versatile player. He can pass rush off the edge. He can cover guys. He can play in the inside. He can do a lot of things for us.” 

Bertrand, the starter, and Simon, the backup, will move up the depth chart during Liufau’s absence. Defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman could consider playing backup Mike linebacker Bo Bauer at Will linebacker as well. 

Follow ND Insider Tyler James on Twitter: @TJamesNDI.