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Notre Dame Football

Film Don't Lie: Irish say Aloha to Alohi Gilman

June 13, 2017
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When Notre Dame picked up a graduate transfer from Arizona State early last week, there was overt disappointment shared by some fans.

Another receiver? It couldn't be a defensive tackle or a safety? Why can't nice things happen to us? (Okay, the last one might be a slight exaggeration. Only slight, though)

Then towards the end of a crazy week those hoping for help on the defensive side of the ball had their wishes granted. Notre Dame picked up a safety transfer and not one that underachieved at his previous stop. They landed someone who would have been one of the top returning players on their former team. And they stole him away from a rival they play every year!

That rival is...Navy?

I could see many being a lot less excited about this transfer simply by looking at the program he is coming from. Navy has certainly risen up to a different level under Ken Niumatololo, but they don't exactly recruit blue-chip talent. Landing a transfer from Navy is not something that would normally be celebrated because most players on their team aren't seen as being talented enough to play for a program like Notre Dame.

After watching some film of the newest member of the Irish football team, I believe Alohi Gilman is an exception. The 6'0" 195 pound safety, originally from Hawaii, was not a guy who had a ton of big time offers out of high school. Several top programs wanted him after he announced he was leaving the Naval Academy, though. He proved himself to be a really good college football as a true freshman last season.

He finished second on his team in tackles with 76 (5 for loss) and added 5 pass breakups and a forced fumble. That's pretty good production for an upperclassman and outstanding for someone in their first season against college competition.

The numbers are nice, but the film tells more of the story. I liked a lot of what I saw from Gilman in the three games I watched of him (Notre Dame, Memphis, and Temple).

A downhill player


Due to some personnel issues, Navy had him playing free safety a bit. I don't see him as a free safety at Notre Dame. He is going to play strong safety and I think he will fit really well in Mike Elko's defense.

They played a lot of two high (two safeties deep) and even with that being the case, Gilman was still a pretty significant factor versus the run game. He is an aggressive, downhill football player that did a really nice job attacking from deep. That stood out specifically versus the Irish.

He does a really nice job of filling the lane against Dexter Williams on this run and going low to submarine him. I saw Gilman take a bad angle to the ball on one particular play versus Temple, but for the most part, this was the kind of thing I saw from him when attacking from deep.

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It was similar to this play where he went low again to take out Josh Adams. Adams is frankly lucky that he didn't have his knee blown out with this tackle.

via GIPHY

If he is off here, then it's probably to the house for Adams and there were several other tackles where it could have been the same. You want a lot of things out of your safeties, but number one on that list is to prevent the other team's band playing after a big play. As the last line of defense, Gilman consistently tackled well to prevent that from happening.

He wasn't perfect, few safeties are, but I didn't see many freshman mistakes from him.

Instincts and finish in coverage


Simply based on the tackle numbers, I'm sure most assumed he is a strong player versus the run. That's great and needed at Notre Dame, but he's an instinctive player in coverage as well. I don't think he is as fast as someone like Jalen Elliott, but it doesn't matter as much if he is a step quicker in diagnosing routes and finishing through at the catch point.

I don't see a slow player on the field. This was some nice closing speed to break on the ball and knock away the potential touchdown against Memphis.

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That was a great play, but that doesn't compare to how great this next one was in my opinion. There is no way Gilman should be able to knock this ball away. It's thrown in a good spot, high and away from the defender. This is compete level. It's technique. It's everything Elko wants to see from a safety on his football team.
This is compete level. It's technique. It's everything Elko wants to see from a safety on his football team.

Gilman finishes through at the catch point and knocks the ball away incomplete.

via GIPHY

He is strong at recognizing routes and is quick to break on the football. He might not be a lights out hitter over the middle, but he is going to make a guy pay for making a play. This is just a really good job by the Memphis receiver to hang on to the football. I can't knock Gilman for the job he did delivering the blow to make it difficult, though.

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Gilman did get beat by a slant on a run-pass option play in this game, but that had less to do with him biting on the run fake and more to do with linebacker being frozen by the run and not dropping to help get in the throwing lane. That's the beauty of RPOs, at least for the offense.

Gilman didn't have inside leverage and gave up the catch for the touchdown. Overall in coverage, though, I have to say that was really impressed. This did not look like a freshman. He plays beyond his years and looks like an intelligent football player.

I loved seeing the discipline from him against Temple a play after he came downhill like a missile to play the run. He stuck with his responsibility despite the threat of the short throw. This play design is all about hoping the safety bites. Gilman wasn't having it.

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Temple was his worst of the three games he played that I watched, but in general the entire Navy defense struggled in that one. The Owls are a physical football team all the way from up front to the wide receivers who get after it blocking. Navy got worn down against them.

It might seem strange for Notre Dame to take a transfer from Navy. It seems even more strange when you consider that two years ago that Gilman was not considered a Power 5 level prospect. But that was two years ago. The film don't lie, this kid is a good football player that is going to help the Irish.

I'm positive we haven't seen his best football yet either. I think he can affect the game even more if he is used as a 8th defender in the box and I would love to see what he can do as a blitzer as well.

They are going to try and get him eligible to play right away. We'll see if that happens. Whether he has to sit a year or not, this is a good addition to the program. He will push for a starting job and at the very least provide quality depth at safety.

Depth at safety at Notre Dame? That sounds almost as crazy as someone from Navy transferring to play for the Irish, but both of those are real things thanks to Gilman.
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