In the film room...Lokeni Toailoa
• Statistics: An unofficial 96 tackles and six sacks as a junior for the Lions of Carter High School.
• Assets: An active, aggressive football player who shows a consistent penchant for playing a physical brand of football. Plays with exceptional pad level, which allows him to weave his way through traffic and get to the ball carrier without the opposition having full awareness of where he’s coming from. Very quick through the hole. Sideline-to-sideline range.
Strong lower body. Really brings his legs/feet through the tackle. Shows ample level of toughness and physicality. Plays the game with a power-football mentality. Shows very active feet moving forward. Does a nice job of keeping outside shoulder free from blocker.
A natural blitzer with very good timing. Hits the hole at the right time with that low pad level allowing him to disguise where he’s coming from and when he’s arriving. Sometimes used at Carter High as a three-point defensive end with good off-the-snap quickness, and will occasionally come off the edge in from a two-point stance.
• Room for improvement: Not an overwhelming on-the-hoof presence. Undersized height-wise. Tends to pursue the football with a flat-footed running style (although it doesn’t seem to inhibit him). Doesn’t consistently show top-level change of direction. Will take shallow angles defending the run outside the tackles.
• Scholarship offers: Notre Dame. Pac 12: Arizona State, Cal, Colorado, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA, USC, Utah, Washington, Washington State; ACC: Duke, Louisville, Miami; Big Ten: Rutgers, Wisconsin; Big 12: Oklahoma; Others: Boise State, New Mexico State, San Diego State; Interest: Auburn, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech.
• Early line: The bulk of the attention has come from the Pac 12 with a few outliers from the ACC, Big Ten and Big 12. Toailoa recently told Scout’s Greg Biggins that the schools showing the most interest at the present time are Notre Dame, Washington, USC and UCLA.
“Coach (Bob) Elliott at Notre Dame is probably the coach I talk to the most,” said Toailoa to Biggins on March 5. “He’s a good dude.”
Toailoa said Elliott has been by Carter High School “about five or six times since they extended me an offer.”
Toailoa said “the whole staff at Washington is recruiting me, and I’ve been in contact with USC and UCLA for three years now.”
He’d like to make his announcement in early January at the Under Armour All-American game. He said he’d like to visit all 21 schools that have offered him, but knows that’s not possible.
“I’m planning to take some unofficial visits this spring, but don’t have anything planned right now,” Toailoa said.
He’ll make trips to Cal and Utah with his Ground Zero 7v7 squad.
“I really don’t have a leader right now,” said Toailoa earlier this week. “I’m looking at everyone. One factor could be what happens with my brother, Leni Toailoa. We would love to play together. That’s always been our dream, so if a school offers him -- and Oregon is on him hard right now -- that will definitely play a role in my decision.”
None of the schools that have offered Lokeni have offered unranked Leni, who is a 6-foot-1, 170-pound safety.
• ND’s 2015 linebacker recruiting: Toailoa is Scout’s second-highest ranked middle linebacker on Notre Dame’s board, behind Jaquan Yulee (Chesapeake, Va.). Top 200 inside linebackers include Dontavious Jackson (No. 6 MLB, No. 177 overall) from Houston and Devin White (No. 7 MLB, No. 184 overall) from Springhill, La.
• ND’s 2016 linebacker depth chart: Joe Schmidt and Jarrett Grace will be gone, and Jaylon Smith with either be a senior ILB with a year of eligibility, a senior OLB with a year of eligibility, or off to the NFL following his junior season in ’15.
Nyles Morgan will be a junior with two years of eligibility remaining, as would Greer Martini and Kolin Hill, the latter of which factors in as an outside speed rusher, but also practiced on the inside in ’14. Michael Deeb will be a senior with two years of eligibility. Te’von Coney will be a sophomore with either three or four years of eligibility.
• Summary: The first guy that comes to mind size-wise is former Irish two-time captain Maurice Crum, Jr., who recently returned to Notre Dame in a graduate assistant’s role. Crum didn’t have great size either, but he’s among the top 10 all-time tacklers at Notre Dame, and Toailoa is quicker and covers more ground laterally.
My favorite attributes of Toailoa’s are his physical nature and the fact he’s a hard-nosed, natural football player. He’s not going to overwhelm you with his measurables, but he’ll use his talents and his great desire to get to the football to make plays. He also appears to have a big personality, which comes through positively in the way he plays the game.
He has some things to prove beyond the stature of his frame. You’d like to see more explosion on his change of direction, and the lack of height could limit him against the behemoths in the trenches. But everyone on the West Coast is all-in for Toailoa, and the list could expand with a big senior season.
Where does Notre Dame fit in? The Irish have been very active in their early pursuit of Toailoa, which is critical with all the West Coast attention. He’s talked about the three-year process he’s undergone with UCLA and USC, but says distance is not a factor in his decision, which obviously is good for Notre Dame.
He’s not planning on making a decision any time soon, so there is a ton of recruiting still to be done, particularly with a young man who said he’d like to visit every school that’s offered him.
The early bet is a final destination in his section of the country, but he’s so open-minded now that it’s really too early to pinpoint a school beyond those in his immediate location. If the Irish want this rangy inside linebacker, they’re going to have to work their tails off to get him.