The Notre Dame Fighting Irish open the 2021 college football season at the Florida State Seminoles on Sunday but already experienced a costly loss.
Per Tom VanHaaren of ESPN, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly told reporters Monday that linebacker Marist Liufau underwent surgery to repair a broken and dislocated ankle that he suffered in practice last Wednesday and will likely miss the entire season. Kelly compared it to the setback former Alabama Crimson Tide wide receiver Jaylen Waddle encountered last fall.
Liufau, a junior, recorded 22 total tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss during the 2020 campaign. Irish Illustrated listed him as the 12th “most impactful player” on the team for the upcoming season.
Junior linebacker J.D. Bertrand is expected to start in Liufau’s place at Florida State.
Per Irish Illustrated, Kelly recently had high praise for fellow linebacker Drew White.
“He’s a guy that it’s gonna be difficult to take him off the field,” Kelly said of White last week. “Drew is in the best shape of his life. He’s experienced. He’s a great leader. He’s assignment correct. It’ll be up to (defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman) at the end of the day to decide whether that, the traits that I just mentioned, warrant third down.
“I think there’s going to be times where he will be on the field and third down and I think there’ll be some times when he won’t be on the field, but he’s put himself in a great position by virtue of his experience and the way he’s worked.”
Sunday’s showdown between Notre Dame and Florida State is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. ET.