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Photo by Niuafe Tuihalamaka
Notre Dame Football Recruiting

Recruiting Week In Review

April 18, 2021

Written by Joe Bradshaw

Notre Dame’s 2022 recruiting class continues to grow and is ranked number four by at least two ranking services. There’s no question that the Irish coaching staff is not only garnering verbal commitments from more highly ranked players but also appear to be in strong recruiting positions with a number of others. If the NCAA ends the dead period beginning June 1st, getting prospects on campus could even further amp up Notre Dame’s recruiting. One position that they’ve recruited well so far and seem to be in very good shape with other candidates is linebacker. Last week Irish Sports Daily reported on two linebacker recruits in the Class of 2022 who are both highly regarded and have shown great interest in Notre Dame. What have you been missing by not being a member of Irish Sports Daily?

Niuafe Tuihalamaka‍, LB, 6-2, 238, Bishop Alemany High School, Mission Hills, CA has scheduled a Notre Dame official visit for the weekend of June 11th through the 13th. With the NCAA recruiting dead period set to end on May 31st, the four-star California prospect isn’t wasting any time in getting to South Bend and he’s not the only one excited for the visit.

“It’s not only me but especially my mom and dad,” he said of his parents’ eagerness to see Notre Dame.

Tuihalamaka has been in good contact with the coaching staff but now he’s ready to meet them in person. He also knows what he wants to see when he gets on campus.

“Definitely the stadium, especially the coaches as well,” he shared. “Right now, it’s like a long distance relationship, so seeing them in person is probably the best step toward knowing where I can stay for the next three to four years with a coach who can be a secondhand father for myself to be watched over. That’s the biggest thing my mom and dad are looking for.”

Notre Dame Defensive Coordinator Marcus Freeman has made it clear that he’s planning on taking that responsibility should Tuihalamaka choose the Irish.

“He’s a big standout for me as far as being a father figure himself,” Tuihalamaka said. “Knowing he’s handling his own family, which has six kids, so he’s a big family figure toward my family. It’s a big thing knowing that if I come there, he’ll take me in as one of his sons and as a student-athlete coming in. He knows that my dreams and goals are to make it to the NFL. His personality is as good as it gets.”

Tuihalamaka is planning two other official visits as well.

“I’m planning for Stanford and Texas right now,” he said. “I’m planning to have those before the 11th.”

Tuihalamaka plans to make a decision sometime after his official visits, “This summer for sure.”

Unlike Tuihalamaka, Sebastian Cheeks‍, LB, 6-2, 210, Evanston Township High School, Evanston, IL has been to Notre Dame and plans to return soon. He took a self-guided tour in December and could be back multiple times over the coming weeks.

Cheeks has locked in an official visit for the weekend of June 18th and has also talked about possibly getting before then. 

Even if Cheeks takes another self-guided tour, it’s the official visit that he’s really looking forward to completing.

“Just to be around the new staff, get a feel for things,” he said of what he will be looking for. “Last time I went it was obviously unguided and it wasn’t official. I want to get around the new coaching staff, especially Coach (Marcus Freeman) obviously, get with Coach (Nick) Leznyski, those guys that I’ve been developing relationships with this whole period.”

Cheeks views Freeman’s and Leznyski’s recruiting personalities as part of larger traits that will also impact how they handle the players on the team.

“I think they make the locker room what it is,” he said. “They recruit the same like-minded guys and that is really attractive to recruits who at the end of the day are all about culture and wanting to win.”

Cheeks had a head start on his relationship with Freeman. The Irish defensive coordinator was recruiting him when he was still the defensive coordinator at Cincinnati.

“I’ve had a great relationship with him even when he was at Cincy,” he explained. “I’m just going through the process with him and he knows that my mind’s kind of locked in on this season, but hopefully when everything’s over, I can get out.”

In addition to Notre Dame, Cheeks is being recruited by Michigan, Texas, Cincinnati, Wisconsin, Iowa, Iowa State, Maryland, Northwestern, Ole Miss, Kentucky, Oregon, Stanford and numerous others. He plans to take other visits but isn’t exactly sure just yet.

“I haven’t officially wrote anything down on my calendar or anything like that, but I definitely plan to visit schools that I haven’t had the opportunity to most of the last year,” he shared.

His primary focus right now is his junior season. Because of the pandemic, Illinois football teams are playing this spring instead of last fall. While he admits it’s different, Cheeks is just happy to be on the field.

“The season is going good,” he said. “Obviously it’s shortened, six games. I don’t think I’ve ever played football around this time of year, but it’s good to be back out there with the seniors. You don’t take it for granted anymore. I’m just happy to be playing the game I love.”

These two summaries are just samples of the Notre Dame football recruiting information available each week on Irish Sports Daily.

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