Notebook: Notre Dame considering appeal of NCAA's decision on safety Alohi Gilman
SOUTH BEND — The final piece to Notre Dame’s depth chart puzzle was solved recently when the NCAA said no to Navy transfer Alohi Gilman playing for the Irish in 2017.
But it’s not necessarily end of chapter, end of story.
“We are still in the process of deciding whether to appeal that or not,” Notre Dame head football coach Brian Kelly said at his weekly Tuesday press conference. “We haven't made a final decision on that.”
Gilman won’t play Saturday, however, when the Irish open the 2017 season against Temple at renovated/reconfigured Notre Dame Stadium. Had Navy’s second-leading tackler in 2016 been granted eligibility, the 5-11, 199-pound sophomore likely would have been a starter at free safety.
Instead, senior Nick Coleman — ND’s sixth option at cornerback at the end of last season — and sophomore Jalen Elliott will get the starts at the safety positions. True freshman Isaiah Robertson is in the two deeps. None of the three have made a collegiate start at safety.
One of the few carryovers for a Temple team that went 10-4 last season but had a complete coaching staff turnover in the offseason is a strong wide receiver corps that will figure to test the Irish safeties on Saturday.
Purportedly, the Owls may throw up to three quarterbacks at the Irish — all lacking any significant college experience — in the third-ever meeting between the two schools.
Temple had the nation’s No. 3 defense nationally in 2016, but only four starters remain from that unit.
In recent days, Kelly had grown pessimistic about Gilman’s chances of a transfer waiver, so the Laie, Hawaii, product’s reps with the first and second teams had been limited. Notre Dame now must decide if an appeal would be worth a partial season for Gilman, or drop it and restart his final three seasons in 2018.
“I've been in that process before,” Kelly said of the potential appeal. “It is a committee that is made up of athletic directors and commissioners. It takes the information quite a while in a sense that it looks at all mitigating factors in it, whereas (in) your initial (process), it's pretty cut and dry relatively.
“We obviously feel as though we've got some information that we would like the NCAA to see. I don't make that decision. Our athletic director (Jack Swarbrick) and senior associate (Jill Bodensteiner) would make that final decision. But I think we have some information that we probably would like to share.
Depth chart surges/surprises
True freshman defensive linemen Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa and Kurt Hinish leapfrogged a couple of juniors late in camp and will open the season No. 2 on the depth chart at defensive tackle and nose guard, respectively.
“We're not talking about 50 plays here,” Kelly said. “We're talking about a role that we believe that they can fulfill for us and they have handled it, because they have the physical ability to go in there and compete. They're strong. They possess the mental capability to handle what we're throwing at them in terms of picking up the coaching techniques.”
• Other true freshmen in the mostly two-deep depth chart — wide receivers go three deep and tight ends goes five deep instead of two — are Josh Lugg at left offensive guard, Jafar Armstrong and Michael Young at wide receiver, Cole Kmet and Brock Wright at tight end, Robert Hainsey at right offensive tackle, and Jonathan Doerer kicking off.
• Junior C.J. Sanders and sophomore Tony Jones Jr., will handle kickoff return duties, while junior Chris Finke is listed ahead of Sanders at punt returner.
• Junior Te’von Coney is listed as a co-starter with senior captain Greer Martini at the Buck linebacker position. Senior Andrew Trumbetti shares No. 1 status at both defensive end spots, with sophomore Daelin Hayes on one side and senior Jay Hayes at the other.
• Both grad transfers are listed as starters for Saturday, former Michigan receiver Freddy Canteen in the slot and former Arizona State receiver Cam Smith outside. Junior Equanimeous St. Brown, ND’s leading receiver in 2016, is the other wide receiver starter.
Because some of the receivers learned more than one of the positions during the offseason, how they’ll actually be used on Saturday beyond the starters might not reflect the rigidity of a written depth chart.
Then again, Notre Dame actually provided a depth chart for Saturday’s game. New Temple head coach Geoff Collins only provided a list of players who could see action in the game without regard to a pecking order and/or in some cases an actual position.
• Kelly said junior tight end Alizé Mack is 100 percent after suffering a hamstring injury during the first week of training camp, in early August.
Mack hasn’t played in a game since the Fiesta Bowl at the end of the 2015 season. He was academically ineligible last season.
Sharing the ball
It’s a nice problem to have, and Kelly actually doesn’t even see it as a problem but rather a multi-headed solution.
Josh Adams enters his junior season third all-time on ND’s average-per-carry list (6.4), behind only All-American Reggie Brooks (7.6) and Rockne Era Four Horseman Don Miller (6.8).
Junior Dexter Williams (60 career carries) and sophomore Tony Jones Jr. (redshirted in 2016) have performed well enough in camp to coax a three-man rotation. The question is how will the math work?
“They all have futures to play past this level,” Kelly said. “They're that kind of player. So when you have three outstanding backs, they all have to fit in what you're doing in some fashion.
“I think each one of them has a little bit of a different style. So to answer the question, one would be definitely play a guy that has a hot hand, but you have two other guys that if they're fresh, we're not going to run a guy where he's not at 100 percent.
“So I think you're going to see more of a rotational basis with the three of them. And it will start with Josh Adams at the top of the list. I mean, I think they're all really, really fine backs, and all of them will be contributing to our success in some fashion.”
It should be noted that Adams’ career-high in carries is 20 (last season against Syracuse, and in 2015 against Pitt). And in 25 career games, he’s carried the ball 12 or fewer times in 13 of those games, including six times last season.
It’s lonely up top
Only two assistant coaches will start the season in the press box rather than the sideline on game days, an unusually low number.
Defensive coordinator Mike Elko and quarterbacks coach Tommy Rees are the only two who will have a view from up top.
“I sit down with the coordinators,” Kelly said of the process, “(and) we clearly go over what communication system do we like, who our signalers are, what forms of communication do we want on the sideline with the players.
“We kind of just start with that and begin with, do the coordinators want to be watching the game from the box? Then we kind of go to work on where the assets are, how they best fit, then we kind of put it together from there.”
Handling pressure I
Junior Brandon Wimbush, like the gaggle of Temple QB co-starters, also has limited game experience. ND’s starting QB Saturday hasn’t thrown a pass in a college game since 2015.
Yet Kelly is confident in Wimbush’s ability to handle the bright lights.
“There's going to be some things in each and every game that he's going to have to go through and fight through, a little bit of adversity each and every week,” Kelly said. “But he's got such a great mindset. He's going to be able to handle things quite well.
“He does a good job of putting something aside and moving on. He doesn't dwell on a mistake and let it affect the next play, because he's going to have that happen to him.
“I'd be more concerned if this was a young man that let mistakes in camp eat at him. He's made some mistakes in camp, but he can put them behind him and move to the next play.”
Handing pressure II
Kelly was asked Tuesday if he feels more pressure this season, after a 4-8 mark in 2016, than he has going into his first seven season at ND.
“For me, I've always felt like there's an expectation that you have to have being the head coach at Notre Dame,” he said. “It's God, Country and Notre Dame. That's a pretty high bar.
“You should live up to that bar. I didn't live up to that bar, so I think as the head coach at Notre Dame, every year is the same way: you've got to live up to that high bar, and this year is no different.
“We come into this year, our mission is to win the national championship. That's a pretty high bar. So I think you feel that every single year.”