Sophomore safety and Navy transfer Alohi Gilman will not play in Notre Dame’s opener against Temple this Saturday. Irish coach Brian Kelly announced Tuesday the NCAA denied Gilman’s request for a waiver to be immediately eligible after his transfer. Notre Dame may yet appeal the ruling, Kelly said during his weekly press conference.
“We obviously feel as though we’ve got some information that we would like the NCAA to see,” Kelly said. “I don’t make that decision … but I think we have some information that we probably would like to share.”
Gilman’s appeal was based around the military changing its stance on how professional athletic aspirations would conflict with one’s service. Gilman made 76 tackles in his one season with the Midshipmen, good for second on the team, while also adding five tackles for loss and five pass breakups. Whether eligible this season or not, he has three years of eligibility remaining at the moment.
Without Gilman on the depth chart, the two-deep roster released by Notre Dame on Tuesday morning has junior cornerback-turned-safety Nick Coleman starting at field safety with sophomore Jalen Elliott getting the nod at boundary safety ahead of classmate Devin Studstill. Freshman Isaiah Robertson fills in behind Coleman on the depth chart, though it is conceivable sophomore cornerback Julian Love sees time on the backline, as well.
Mack at 100 percent
Junior tight end Alizé Mack has battled a nagging hamstring injury for the last couple weeks, but Kelly said he is fully healthy at this point.
“He’s looked really good and has been very active,” Kelly said.
Perhaps a nagging hamstring injury before the season does not usually warrant second-billing in a press conference notebook like this, but after he missed last season due to an academic suspension, Mack’s return has been long-heralded. Especially in new offensive coordinator Chip Long’s system and its preference for using multiple tight ends, having Mack around from the outset could be crucial for the Irish offense.
Seven freshmen in the two-deep, including two DTs
Including Robertson, five freshmen have positioned themselves well to see playing time Saturday. Receiver Michael Young is listed as one of the two backup options behind graduate student and Arizona State transfer Cam Smith, along with junior C.J. Sanders.
Josh Lugg will back up Quenton Nelson at left guard while Robert Hainsey handles that duty at right tackle. Kicker Jonathan Doerer will handle kickoff duties, allowing junior Justin Yoon to focus on placekicking.
Most notably, Notre Dame’s second set of defensive tackles is composed entirely of freshmen, beating out players years their elder. Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa will back up senior Jonathan Bonner and Kurt Hinish will back up junior Jerry Tillery.
“They have the physical ability to go in there and compete,” Kelly said of the young duo. “They’re strong, they possess the mental capability to handle what we’re throwing at them in terms of picking up the coaching techniques.”
Despite that praise, Kelly did try to temper expectations for Tagovaiola-Amosa and Hinish. The starters remain Bonner and Tillery. Juniors Micah Dew-Treadway and Brandon Tiassum could still see some playing time. At some point, junior Elijah Taylor could return from the LisFranc fracture he suffered in the spring.
“We’re talking about a role that we believe [the freshmen] can fulfill for us,” Kelly said. “… We’re not asking them to play 40-50 snaps. These are small roles that we’re going to ask them to play, and we think that they can handle that type of role that we’re prescribing them.”
Along with the freshmen, the Irish defense should routinely incorporate a number of backups this weekend. Senior defensive end Andrew Trumbetti is listed as a co-starter on both ends of the line, along with sophomore Daelin Hayes and senior Jay Hayes. Junior Te’von Coney is listed as an “OR” starter with senior captain Greer Martini. Whether or not Trumbetti or Coney actually starts, each will see plenty of playing time.
“Eleven guys playing 85 snaps is not the kind of defense that we’re about,” Kelly said. “Trumbetti is a guy who can play either end position for us, so right away he’s a guy that comes to mind as somebody that’s going to be sharing both sides of that. Te’von Coney, obviously, with Greer immediately. We can talk about more than two corners being on the field. We mentioned the two freshmen are going to have to play a role in the defensive line rotation.
“Just right there, you’re talking about 15-16 defensive players immediately having to be in a rotation.”
With the expectation of Long running an up-tempo offense and thus creating more possessions and plays, it will be even more vital for Notre Dame to have fresh options on defense.
Only Rees and Elko up in the box
Quarterbacks coach Tom Rees and defensive coordinator Mike Elko will be the sole coaches in the press box for the Irish this weekend, with the rest of the staff patrolling the sidelines. This is a bit more drastic split than has been seen in recent years.
Kelly said he makes those decisions based on what the coordinators prefer. Long, for example, wants to be immersed in the game as he makes play calls.
“He wants to get a feel and a comfort level,” Kelly said. “… He’ll start the first game on the sideline and see how that rolls.”