SOUTH BEND — Alohi Gilman’s spring has been more about getting healthy than making plays in practice. The Notre Dame safety still hasn’t been fully unleashed to roam around the Irish secondary.
But even on days when Gilman doesn’t fully participate in every portion of practice, he still finds a way to make an impact. During Tuesday’s practice, the 13th of the spring, Gilman snagged an interception on a pass intended for tight end George Takacs thrown by quarterback Phil Jurkovec.
The interception came during Notre Dame’s half skeleton drill, essentially 7-on-7 but with only one side of the offense and defense in action. Earlier in one-on-one coverage, Gilman broke up a pass to tight end Brock Wright on a skinny post. Gilman also blanketed emerging tight end Tommy Tremble to force an incomplete pass.
Gilman wasn’t the only one to force a turnover Tuesday. Houston Griffith got in on the fun with an interception of Jurkovec as well. Griffith kept himself between the ball and wide receiver Kevin Austin Jr. and came down with the pass thrown near the sideline.
Jurkovec also fumbled on a mishandled exchange with running back Kyren Williams. Rover Paul Moala was in position to pick up the fumble during the scrimmage action.
Even without the turnovers, the defense had a much improved day overall from Saturday when the offense dominated. Defensive end Julian Okwara returned to full action, though fellow defensive end Khalid Kareem still sat out live periods.
The front seven didn’t pressure Book a lot, but the secondary stepped up its game. The confidence may have come from success in early one-on-one drills. Instead of working on red-zone routes, the Irish worked on a drill that had defenders and receivers line up side by side and compete for deep throws. The drill resulted in more incomplete throws than the typical one-on-one setup. The coverage was much tighter by design. Cornerbacks Avery Davis and Temitope Agoro both recorded pass breakups.
Even without leveling the playing field, some defensive backs were in good position. Troy Pride Jr. prevented a completion to wide receiver Chase Claypool in his first two one-on-one reps against him. The second attempt was batted away by Pride.
Safety Jalen Elliott and cornerback TaRiq Bracy both recorded PBUs in coverage against receivers Micah Jones and Kevin Austin Jr., respectively.
Though Griffith did have an interception on Jurkovec, he had some bad moments too. He was called for pass interference in one-on-one coverage against wide receiver Michael Young. He also allowed a Claypool touchdown reception on a fade route late in practice.
While working in Gilman’s absence, safety DJ Brown showed some good instincts. He was in position for a good thud on a screen to wide receiver Chris Finke. Anyone that can stay within a yard of Finke deserves some praise. Brown also recorded a pass breakup while covering Takacs during the half skeleton period.
At the linebacker level, rover Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and Jack Lamb had standout plays in coverage. Owusu-Koramoah deflected a pass near the line of scrimmage with an impressive leap. Lamb provided tight coverage down the middle of the field on a seam route by Wright.
Lamb also provided blindside pressure on Ian Book that would have resulted in a sack on a two-point conversion attempt. The most impressive pass rush of the day may have belonged to defensive tackle Jayson Ademilola, who split the interior of the line to force Jurkovec into a poor throw that should have been intercepted.
Linebacker Bo Bauer flashed in one instance when he covered a lot of ground to limit elusive wide receiver Lawrence Keys III on a jet sweep.
Notre Dame’s No. 1 defense used the following personnel as its base group: Defensive ends Julian Okwara and Adetokunbo Ogundeji, defensive tackle Myron Tagovailo-Amosa and nose guard Kurt Hinish, mike linebacker Asmar Bilal, buck linebacker Jordan Genmark Heath, rover Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, cornerbacks Troy Pride Jr. and Houston Griffith and safeties DJ Brown and Jalen Elliott.
Both defensive end Khalid Kareem and safety Alohi Gilman participated in portions of practice but not during live 11-on-11 action.
The No. 2 defense included defensive ends Daelin Hayes and Jamir Jones, defensive tackle Jayson Ademilola, nose guard Jacob Lacey, mike linebacker Shayne Simon, buck linebacker Jack Lamb, rover Paul Moala, cornerbacks TaRiq Bracy and Avery Davis and safeties Patrick Pelini and Derrik Allen.
Little of note was observed during the special teams portion of practice, which was dedicated to the punt unit. Freshman Jay Bramblett repeatedly hit footballs into the rafters of Loftus. He took snaps from walk-on Michael Vinson as John Shannon continues to be limited with a minor back issue this spring.
Five punt returners took turns catching “punts” from a machine: wide receivers Chris Finke, Michael Young, Lawrence Keys III and Joe Wilkins Jr. and safety Alohi Gilman.
Several defenders are still working their way back from various injuries. Cornerbacks Shaun Crawford (knee) and Donte Vaughn (shoulder) did some drill work for the second consecutive practice. Defensive tackles Ja’mion Franklin (quad) and Hunter Spears (knee) dressed for practice but didn’t participate in drills. They took part in stretching and then did workouts on the side with other injured plays.
Linebackers Drew White (shoulder) and Jack Kiser (shoulder) and walk-on safety Christopher Schilling continued to be sidelined.
Once again, former Notre Dame cornerback Julian Love attended practice.