Physicality makes Luatua special

Certain to see the field as a true freshman, per Brian Kelly, is tight end Tyler Luatua. His former head coach, Mike Moschetti, talks about why Luatua can fill a variety of roles right out of the gate for Notre Dame this season.

Not one of many words, freshman tight end Tyler Luatua may not verbalize his competitiveness, but don't be mistaken, his passion for the game is alive and well.

"He's a quiet kid, but he doesn't back down," said Mike Moschetti, who coached Luatua last year at La Mirada (Calif.) High. "He doesn't say much off the field, but he doesn't back down when he's on it. I know I've seen it written that his body language appears negative, but Luatua had two things in mind when he chose Notre Dame. Get a degree from a prestigious university and win the national championship."

"He was the first kid in the weight room and the last one off the field," Moschetti added. "He was always seeking tutors after school and he never missed a class. When he's on the field, he's even been known to talk a little trash."

The 6-foot-2 1/2, 260-pound tight end has been one of the few surprises to come out of Notre Dame's fall camp, having earned the rare distinction of being mentioned by Brian Kelly as one of the few freshmen standouts thus far.

"He's (Luatua) gonna play," Kelly said. "We're going to feature some backfield sets that will allow him to really use his size. He's a load. He's close to 270 pounds, and when he brings it, he's a heavy load. We haven't had that kind of downhill physicality that changes the pace. We can still play fast and then play downhill."

Whether or not Kelly will trust the freshman in short-yardage red zone situations is worthy of some hesitation, but count on Luatua's unique size-to-speed ratio and blend of athleticism and power to be featured at both the line of scrimmage and in the backfield at points throughout the 2014 season.

"Being an outsider watching Notre Dame, I feel like in the past they've lacked the physicality in the run game on situations like 3rd and three or 4th and one," Moschetti said. "Those times when the opposing team knows you're running the ball, the entire stadium knows you're running the ball, and you still can get that first down. When Notre Dame runs the power with (Everett) Golson, Luatua can be an asset. Just like he can be an asset in the play-action pass. He has great hands."

Luatua, who had over 30 offers coming out of high school, exploded onto the recruiting scene after his sophomore year when he had 23 receptions for over 250 yards.

"We would use him at half-back, full-back, tight end, and split out as a wide receiver," Moschetti said. "He would even play some defensive end and outside linebacker for us and put his hand down on the ground. I've always said what made him special compared to other tight ends in his class was his physicality."

"He reminds me of the tight ends in the 1970s and 1980s that would be used primarily to block, but that were still athletic enough to get by people and make plays in the passing game."

The challenge for Luatua moving forward will be to maintain his power and physicality while shedding some weight.

"He's a bright, smart kid with a big future ahead of him," Moschetti said. "He's still got to get stronger and lose a few pounds, and he knows that. He wants to be lighter on his feet, and he'll get there."

If fall camp is any indication that Luatua likes to prove people wrong, then don't bet against a slimmed down sophomore exiting Paul Longo's spring workouts.

But, first things first is a 2014 season.

"He's really enjoying it so far," Moschetti said. "He won't be one to talk up any of the success he's having so far because he knows when practice is over, it was just one day. He knows what's expected of him every time he hits the field."

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