Film Don't Lie | Aidan Keanaaina

February 13, 2019

We sometimes talk about fit to death when it comes to recruits, but there is a good reason for it. It matters a lot at every school and matters even more when we’re talking about a school and program like Notre Dame.

Aidan Keanaaina‍ checks all the boxes as a fit for the Irish off the field and while that’s important, I think people will be excited to learn that he is a great fit on the field too. He fills an important need in this class and projects to be the double team devouring nose tackle that Notre Dame wants to have in the middle of their defense.

Height: 6’3”

Weight: 305

Projected Position: Nose Tackle

ISD Grade: 90 (4-star)

National Average Grade: 89.3 (3-star)

What he does best:

The first thing that stands out is the way he can play with leverage and anchor against the double team. He’s blocked by two or three players often when he is lined up as the nose for J.K. Mullen’s (Colorado) defense and he does a fantastic job battling against it.

Seeing him sink his hips to deal with this double and then disengage to make the play is not something that is very common.


The most exciting part of his game is also the most improved part of his game from his sophomore to his junior year in my opinion. He’s a big, strong force who didn’t always play that way before, but is way better at getting off of blocks like on this play here.


They ask Keanaaina and his fellow defensive lineman to slant quite a bit and the way he is able to redirect his momentum like a pinball is special for a guy his size. It shows that he is not just a space eater, but an athlete who can change direction to stay involved in the play.

I love his motor. It’s pretty remarkable that someone his size at his position averages 7.7 tackles per game. That shows a level of want-to from him that is exactly what an evaluator likes to see from a player who could easily rely on his strength and only that.

He’s an example of someone who is hungry to make a play and this bull rush with him driving the center back into the quarterback while fighting to get off the block shows just how much he wants to finish.


When you add in all of that with the fact that he has very good lateral quickness at his size, he already has shown on film that he can be much more than a traditional nose tackle.


What he needs to improve:

His improvement over the last year was impressive, but there are things he can do better still. On some plays he will pop up out of his stance and get away with it because he is so much bigger than his blocker(s). That’s not going to work on the next level.

Overall his pad level is pretty good, just not as good as it could be. He needs to work moves better as a pass rusher. Other than a quick swim, I didn’t see much from him in that department and I do feel he has the potential to be a plus pass rusher at this position.

When he shoots his hands out of his stance, he can be dominant with his length. He’s a legit 6’3” and does not always play like it. It’s scary in a good way when he does. It just needs to be a more consistent thing.

What’s his ceiling?

I think you can tell that I’m pretty high on Keanaaina as a prospect and I don’t believe he is close to the player he can be. I see a frame that can put on a lot of muscle over the next few years and be 320+ while maintaining his athleticism.

Notre Dame hasn’t had that type of nose tackle in quite awhile.

Looking at this most recent Irish team, Jonathan Bonner was strictly a two-down player and on if Kurt Hinish is the starter at one-tech this season, he’ll probably be the same. I think Keanaaina’s ceiling is to be more than that. He can develop into someone who can rush the passer on 3rd down and be more than just a factor versus the run. Maybe not all the time on 3rd downs, but some of it.

I believe his best football is way ahead of him and if he makes the same kind of leap that he did as junior during his senior season, then he could be someone who competes for a spot in the two-deep the moment he steps on campus and then eventually become a multi-year starter at one-technique if he reaches his potential.

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