CULVER, Ind. — A handful of Notre Dame’s defensive backs did not participate in Thursday’s practice.
Second-team boundary cornerback Houston Griffith, second-team free safety DJ Brown and defensive back Avery Davis spent preseason practice No. 5 limited to sideline work.
Most notably, starting free safety Alohi Gilman joined the bunch after going down with an apparent neck injury. The senior collided with running back Jafar Armstrong on a running play near the goal line.
Gilman spent the rest of ND's final practice at the Culver Academies in Culver, Ind. on the sidelines. His injury appeared to be minor, though head coach Brian Kelly has not disclosed details. The next time Kelly is scheduled to speak to the media is when the Irish return to South Bend for Saturday’s practice.
Below are the other practice notes and takeaways on the Irish defense.
Defense lining up
No. 1 defense: defensive ends Julian Okwara and Khalid Kareem, defensive tackle Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa and nose guard Kurt Hinish, mike linebacker Drew White, buck linebacker Asmar Bilal, rover Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, boundary cornerback Troy Pride Jr., field cornerback Donte Vaughn and safeties Alohi Gilman and Jalen Elliott.
No. 2 defense: defensive ends Daelin Hayes and Adetokunbo Ogundeji, defensive tackle Jayson Ademilola and nose guard Jacob Lacey, mike linebacker Bo Bauer, buck linebacker Jordan Genmark Heath, rover Paul Moala, boundary cornerback Temitope Agoro, field cornerback TaRiq Bracy and safeties Derrik Allen and Kyle Hamilton.
On Sunday, Bilal started at mike and Jack Lamb started at buck while Crawford (field) and Griffith (boundary) lined up as the second-team cornerbacks.
With rover as the exception, the Irish continued their linebacker shuffling.
After starting last year at rover, Bilal spent a majority of spring football as ND’s starting mike linebacker. But that was without White as part of the equation.
The sophomore missed most of spring following surgery to repair the AC joint in his right shoulder. In his increased role, White nearly intercepted backup quarterback Phil Jurkovec after jumping a slant route. But his performance likely won't prevent further tweaking.
Lamb did not crack the two-deep in the early stages of practice but displaced Bilal at starting buck later during 11-on-11 action. Sophomore Shayne Simon also started at buck during 7-on-7 work. Simon saw time as the second-team buck for 11-on-11 as well.
Dating back to the spring, starting rover Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah seems to make more plays than any other linebacker. He shined in the drill in which defenders were to tackle ball carriers in limited space.
The third-team linebacker unit featured Lamb (buck) and freshmen JD Bertrand (mike) and Jack Kiser (rover). Freshman Marist Liufau rotated at buck with the third-team unit as well. Kiser stood out among the freshmen with his coverage skills. He played in more of a free safety role for Royal Center (Ind.) Pioneer.
Following a Sunday practice in which he tallied three interceptions, freshman safety Kyle Hamilton recorded Thursday’s lone interception. Hamilton read Jurkovec’s eyes and undercut his deep pass in 11-on-11. Ogundeji pressured Jurkovec on the throw.
Gilman’s injury elevated Hamilton to starting free safety near the end of practice. The 6-4, 210-pounder held his own in coverage against the 1s and tracked the ball well. He disrupted another pass that otherwise could have been a touchdown to wide receiver Chase Claypool.
Earlier in practice, Hamilton hammered receiver Micah Jones in a running drill that typically favors the offensive player. Hamilton otherwise lines up as the second-team strong safety, behind starter Jalen Elliott.
Prior to his injury, Gilman performed well. He logged pass breakups against tight end Cole Kmet and Armstrong during 1-on-1 time. The few completions Gilman yielded were more of testament to his opposing receivers making a play.
The Irish still have not practiced their first-team nickel package in front of reporters. The nickelback — a position of struggle for Notre Dame last season — is an extra defensive back used during obvious passing situations.
Pride opened 11-on-11 action with a pass breakup at the goal line but then struggled on the ensuing 50-50 balls thrown his direction. Against Pride, Claypool caught two contested back-shoulder throws and drew a pass interference on another deep route. Receiver Michael Young also hauled in a back-shoulder pass against Pride and bested him in a 1-on-1 battle as well.
Though often in position to make a play, Pride could not seem to finish and force an incomplete pass. He only started playing at boundary near the end of spring after switching from the field side.
There seemed to be far less action on Vaughn's field side compared to that of Pride during 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 action. Vaughn, a senior, had another quality practice and looks the part at 6-3, 212 pounds.
Defensive end Julian Okwara stood out in an otherwise quiet day from the first-team defensive line. He continued to pressure quarterback Ian Book. The backup defensive line overpowered the second-team offensive line. Defensive tackle Howard Cross III and defensive end Isaiah Foskey stood out among the freshmen.