With Polian Gone, Notre Dame’s Hawaiian Pipeline Needs Attention

Former Notre Dame special teams coach Brian Polian made a name for himself pulling talent out of sunny Hawaii to snowy South Bend.

LSU officially announced hiring now-former Notre Dame special teams Brian Polian to the same position on Brian Kelly’s first staff with the Tigers. Most Notre Dame fans weren’t overly upset about the loss of Polian on the staff, but one characteristic in particular that Marcus Freeman might want to look for in one of the soon to be open assistant vacancies is experience recruiting in Hawaii if the Irish hope to keep their recent Hawaiian pipeline open.

While some might have bemoaned Polian’s special teams coaching – specifically the punt return unit – over the years, one area that Polian excelled was on the recruiting front. He developed a specific niche for himself in recruiting Hawaii in particular. Polian famously visited the islands over and over in Notre Dame’s pursuit of Manti Te’o during his first stint with the Irish under Charlie Weis.

Once Polian returned to Notre Dame under Brian Kelly in 2017, the pipeline opened back up. Almost immediately after being hired, Polian went to work on Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa as part of Notre Dame’s late push for the class of 2017 that paid off dividends with MTA and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah.

Since then, Notre Dame has added linebacker Marist Liufau, ROVER Jordan Botelho, and linebacker Kahanu Kia all from the Aloha State. Even though Polian wasn’t the position coach for any of them directly, he was key in recruiting all of them, given the inroads and connections he has made in the state over the years.

There are just four players from Hawaii on the Notre Dame roster, but before Manti Te’o, Robby Toma, and Kona Schwenke during the Weis years, players from Hawaii were much rarer. Polian had a hand in recruiting them all.

Marcus Freeman has made it known that you have to be a relentless recruiter to be on his staff. Given the travel time alone, recruiting the state of Hawaii isn’t for the faint of heart. Given how many miles we have seen Freeman already racking up on the private jet, I have no doubt that Freeman will find his way to the Hawaiian Islands when called upon. Still, for Notre Dame to keep the Hawaii pipeline flowing, there needs to be an assistant on the staff dedicated (not full-time) to the region.

Part of why Notre Dame has successfully recruited kids out of sunny Hawaiian to snowy South Bend is because Polian made those connections over the years.

The hit rate on the players Notre Dame gets out of Hawaii has been pretty high. Te’o was a Heisman finalist. Toma was a quality receiver. Schwenke was a good defensive lineman who might have had a big 5th year had the staff at the time not had to burn a year on him his freshman season. MTA is a multi-year starter and captain. Liufau was primed for a breakout season before his injury. Both Botelho and Kia have flashed in limited action.

It’s not a requirement that whoever Freeman tabs to replace Polian or fill any of the positions that are still open after the bowl game have the same level of experience recruiting the islands as Polian did, but it’s still something to watch. I think a lot of Notre Dame fans who grew restless with Polian, who were celebrating his departure, might have forgotten how good of a recruiter he was and the Hawaiian niche he carved out for himself.

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  1. Williams is sitting out the bowl. As a fan, I’m disappointed…..but for him, football is now business.
    The OK St. defense is impressively fast and violent. Eliminating a Jaylon Smith scenario is simply prudent.

    And the fact is he’s not regarded nearly as highly by scouts as Smith was. So as far as the injured Smith dropped, even a less severe injury to Williams could cause him to fall off the board entirely.

    Regardless, this bowl game just got tougher.

  2. Silence or scorn…decisions, decisions. So no olive branches, gotcha. In those rare instances of agreement I will take silence, then. Have a great day. Go Irish, beat OSU.

      1. Now now, don’t make me turn on the scorn again and send you off on a tizzy, spilling kool-aide on your mom’s carpet and getting put in time out.

  3. So the NCAA has y’ve put an immediate ban on ‘players’ (read: QB) from faking a head first slide to decieve defensive players and gain advantage.

    So though he won’t win it, the Pitt QB has put a stain on his Heisman nomination, and created himself a Wikipedia reference as a cheater.
    Still not as bad as the 2013 winner (and college arsehole) Johnny Manziel, who tossed away an NFL career for Wikipedia trivia.

  4. Yeah. A 10 year old story about catfishing should stop ND from hiring a native Hawaiian that was one of the most awarded defensive players in history, not just ND history but all of college football, to recruit Hawaii.

    Makes perfect sense.

    1. Not to you, no.
      Becasue 10 years is most of your lifetime.

      Besides, if anyone should offer Te’o a job, it’s Kelly….that kid earned Kelly an NFL interview, a raise, and a long contract at ND.

      1. Most of my lifetime. Hell, I have grandkids that 10 years isn’t even most of their lifetimes.

        But, clearly your wonderful skills of observation are working great.

      2. Okey dokey, gramps.
        You call up Manti and tell him that he should come for a fresh start at ND…..that no one remembers his bizarre humiliation, that he wouldn’t be setting himself up to relive the worst moment in his entore life all over again, and it wouldn’t be throwing a decade of therapy down the toilet.
        Because this “Irishman” RRShole, a goddamn careers genius, reminds us all its been 10 whole years! NOBODY remembers anything about…whatever it was…right?

      3. Wow. Terse and tense. Somebody needs their mommy.

        What I remember is he was a high school and college Butkus winner, a Nagurski winner and finished third in the Heisman. Its not like his stripper girlfirends monkey bit a child like the Texas coach….or has ever been associated with any SEC level recruiting scandals. Helluva linebacker, a man and…wait for it…meets your “loves ND” criteria. And, as the article was about doing something to keep the Hawaiian pipeline open, seems like a reasonable thought.

        But you are probably right….one is always judges solely on their most embarrassing moment. Which reminds me….tell your parents I’m sorry for their misfortune.

      4. So contact Freeman and tell him your great idea.
        With that thin skin of yours, what could possibly go wrong?

  5. People on the UHND meassageboard are now doing an over/under on how long before Freeman wins his first NC.
    Hasn’t ever been the head in a game in his life.

    Here’s my prediction: Kool-aid related drownings will reach an all-timne high.

      1. With the perfect intro speech, a personal letter to the fans, 4 solid media interviews, and an impressively hectic western recruiting whistlestop tour already, under is a gimme.

        That’s right, Saban! You’re finished!

    1. david,
      Steelfan and another poster write that you aren’t just a troll that you are really an ND fan you just hated BK. Ok…as a longtime reader of this site and the comments I cannot say I’ve seen any evidence of anything more than typical trolling.

      You hate BK. Ok, a common feeling especially lately. You crap all over the MF hire. Swarbrick is a fool you say. Anyone that dares suggest optimism or excitement for the program you call a drunk or worse.

      I’m interested. Let’s say you actually finished high school and somehow was Lord of all ND football. Who would you hire? What would be your grand plan to return the program to glory?

      Magically hire Saban, move the campus to Tuscaloosa and change the name to the The Notso Crimson Tide?

    1. Not sure that woud be a completely pleasant option for Manti.
      ND fans alone have been hard enough on Rees, and he was never been part of any bizarre weirdness whatsoever.

    2. That’s a great idea. I haven’t seen anything on Manti since a blurb about his practice squad slot with Bears expiring. Would be a great LB coach and no doubt could recruit the islands.

      For that matter, where’s Robby Toma….selling insurance it appears from Google….

      1. Yes, that’s what I meant to say…damn fat fingers…
        Great idea!
        Hearing more about Manti is what’s been missing at ND, and something every fan of college football would be happy to remedy, I’m pretty sure.

        Manti’s back, baby!*
        * Note: Baby may or may or not be real. If you hired, or are planning to hire Manti, check with your doctor.

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