2018 Notre Dame Football Position and Prospect Analysis: Safeties
SOUTH BEND – Notre Dame wasn’t hurting for depth at safety, but the Fighting Irish coaches added to what they already possessed anyway with the 2018 recruiting class, and they did it in a very talented manner.
The Irish added an array of athletes to compete in the defensive backfield, three of which are safeties, one of which could potentially be really impactful, to an already nice and deep group that will use the inner-team competition to bolster the entire secondary.
News-Sentinel.com sports reporter Tom Davis has been writing on Notre Dame football for nearly two decades and will take a look at the various position groups for next season and how the incoming class of prospects could impact the success of the Fighting Irish.
Today’s position: Safeties
Coming next: Cornerbacks
Houston Griffith, Derrik Allen, Paul Moala
Notre Dame didn’t graduate a single defensive back that registered a tackle from its 2017 roster, but that didn’t keep the Irish coaches from strengthening the group with even more depth.
Not only did Notre Dame add three freshmen safeties in Houston Griffith, Derrik Allen and Paul Moala, but the most talented new player will be former Navy safety Alohi Gilman, who sat out last season after transferring to Notre Dame.
“He would’ve started,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said of Gilman in December.
Gilman has the basic fundamentals needed to excel at the position, according to Kelly.
“He can cover at the safety position,” Kelly said, “and he can tackle. I know that sounds silly, like, you should be able to, right? That is what you are supposed to do, you are a safety. But he has a great combination of cover skills at the safety position and then the ability to come down and be a sure tackler.”
Gilman will start at the free safety spot, while junior Jalen Elliott and sophomore Jordan Genmark-Heath will battle for the top job at the strong safety position. But Allen will be in the mix along with whoever loses that starting battle, as well as junior Devin Studstill.
That is a whole lot of talent and depth.
“Derrik is long and can make plays all over the field,” new Notre Dame safeties coach Terry Joseph said last month. “As a junior, he played a little bit of corner, so you like his cover skills. But with that kid, the sky is the limit with him.”
Allen is already 6-foot-2, 215 pounds, while Griffith and Moala are both in the 6-0 range.
Joseph said that Griffith is going to get looked at as a cornerback initially, but he is versatile and Notre Dame has already brought in four other cornerbacks besides Griffith.
For Moala, it was his speed that caught the Notre Dame coaches eyes at a summer camp.
“I’ve just gotten to watch his film,” Joseph said, “but you can see he’s a guy who is athletic, big and has a chance to be a physical ball-player.”
At free safety, Gilman will lead a group that also includes senior Nick Coleman, sophomore Isaiah Robertson, Moala and senior Nicco Fertitta.
Notre Dame cornerbacks coach Todd Lyght said last month that Robertson has the skill set and size to potentially land at the rover position at some point.
“When you look at our group,” Lyght said, “Isaiah is a player that can move and be a really outstanding rover due to his length (6-foot-2, 195 pounds) and his size.
“Isaiah doesn’t really weigh that much, but he plays much heavier because he is so physical at the point of attack.”
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