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Irish On Tap 2020 NFL Draft Preview: Alohi Gilman

Although Gilman is undersized, his relentless motor and ability to play in the box give him an avenue to succeed at the next level.
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The 5’10” 201 pound Hawaii native has been overlooked throughout his entire football career. After only receiving two scholarship offers out of high school from South Dakota and Weber State, Gilman developed a chip on his shoulder. This turned into possessing a relentless motor that would prove vital to his successful Notre Dame career and eventual NFL draft stock. Over two playing seasons at Notre Dame, Gilman accumulated 168 tackles, six tackles for loss, three interceptions, and four forced fumbles. These impressive numbers led to national recognition, as he was selected as an AP second team preseason All-American in 2019.

Although Gilman had a widely successful career in college, the same limitations that caused him to go under recruited in high school are reappearing and negatively impacting his perceived NFL ability. For a safety in the NFL, 5’10” is severely undersized. This does not bode well for him defending jump balls against wideouts in man coverage. Additionally, there’s some skepticism regarding his range once the ball is in the air, which is vital to becoming a starting safety in the league. Both these deficiencies imply Gilman will almost certainly not be put in single high safety duties against NFL wideouts, as he does not have the height to match up and lacks the quickness and straight away speed to make up for his lack of stature.

These weaknesses even appeared in big games at Notre Dame, as Gilman struggled defending deep balls against Clemson in the 2018 College Football Playoff, for example. Because that opponent showcased a future NFL QB in Trevor Lawrence and NFL speed at wide receiver, the skepticism regarding his downfield coverage ability is warranted.

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However, there are many positives in Gilman’s game that suggests he could be productive in the NFL. This is especially true playing close towards the line of scrimmage and filling the alley against ball carriers at the second level, something Alohi excelled at in college. He is relentless with his downhill pursuit against ball carriers and receivers, and the video below is but one example.

Gilman hunts for the football well when making tackles and is at his best playing downfield attacking opposing receivers and ball carriers. His stout physical stature allows him to deliver powerful hits on the ball carrier, evident by his four forced fumbles his final two years. Gilman was also exceptional with his ability to shed blocks and play through contact, something most safeties struggle with. While there is no guarantee Gilman will be able to man up with wideouts on downfield routes, I would be shocked if he does not have success in zone coverage within ten yards of the line of scrimmage. He dominated that territory at Notre Dame and has all the physical tools to do so at the next level.

Overall, it’s hard to envision Gilman becoming a starting safety in the NFL. He simply lacks the size and range to consistently match up with NFL wideouts, who are an entirely different animal in both speed and athleticism than college. The one avenue to him starting would be playing close towards the line of scrimmage, playing zone, and manning up against tight ends and running backs, similar to what the above video displayed.

Realistically, he grades as a backup safety and dominant special teams player in the league, which aligns with his projected 7th round draft pick. But hey, Gilman has been defying odds all throughout his college career, and he certainly has the character and work ethic to continue doing so at the next level.