Blue and Gold Illustrated

BGI April 2019

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 35 of 55

36 APRIL 2019 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY COREY BODDEN Notre Dame landed a huge target in the 2020 class — literally and figura- tively — when Brighton (Colo.) Mullen defensive tackle Aidan Keanaaina an- nounced his pledge to the Irish Feb. 13. The 6-3, 300-pounder — who is rated as the No. 2 prospect in Colo- rado and the No. 19 defensive tackle nationally by Rivals — picked Notre Dame over Ohio State and Florida, and also held offers from Colorado, Michigan, Nebraska, Oregon, Penn State, USC, Virginia and Wisconsin. "I've always had a sense about Notre Dame since I first visited in the summer," Keanaaina said. "That ex- perience has always been the top of all of my visits. My mom would say that she could tell I would compare every visit to that Notre Dame one. I know Notre Dame will be a great place for me because of the people and culture there. "Defensive line coach Mike Elston always told me I was a priority for them, and that my personality fits exactly what Notre Dame wants in a player. They feel I fit perfectly there. It really showed how much they cared about getting me with the time and effort they put in and actu- ally coming out here to my school to check in on me." Keanaaina's relationship with Elston played a major role in the four-star prospect's decision. "Coach Elston is a great coach with a lot of experience," Keanaaina said of the Irish assistant. "He can be hard on you when you need that, and he can be that person you can really talk to. That's one thing I really enjoyed. "Our relationship has definitely been growing and still is. We're still getting to know more and more about each other. He's understanding more about me as a player and how he's going to be able to coach me and how I will develop." Even though he thought highly of the Buckeyes and Gators, Keanaaina couldn't pass on Notre Dame. "It was a hard decision," he ex- plained. "I had a top three of Notre Dame, Florida and Ohio State. With Ohio State, coach Tony Alford was my area recruiter. I had an amazing relationship with him. It was hard for me to not go there. What made it a little easier was knowing he wasn't my position coach. "For Florida, I had an amazing visit there, too. Coach Dan Mullen really made me feel welcomed. Being in the SEC too with top competition and knowing who Florida is [was intriguing]. "Florida's atmosphere is nothing compared to Notre Dame, so that's what really had me decided on Notre Dame." Keanaaina was the top interior tar- get for Notre Dame in 2020, and the Colorado product is looking forward to getting to learn from Elston. "Especially at that one-technique spot, I could provide even more pen- etration, being able to get through that gap and causing problems in the backfield in the run and pass game," he said. "I feel I'm a great pressure player and great penetrator." Keanaaina enjoyed being recruited, but is glad he will be able to shift that focus elsewhere. "It's definitely a fun process at the beginning," he said. "It's fun to get all the attention and have all of that. Over time, it starts to become hard with school, football and everything else going on with life to have all the conversations or remember to call coaches. "I'm very happy that it's going to slow down a little bit." The new Irish commit is planning to return to South Bend this April for his official visit to watch the Irish go through spring ball and get a better feel of campus life when students are in town. Keanaaina became the fifth com- mitment in the 2020 class for the Irish, joining quarterback Drew Pyne, tight ends Kevin Bauman and Michael Mayer, and defensive end Alexander Ehrensberger. If Keanaaina officially inks with Notre Dame and rankings hold, it will be the fourth straight class the Irish added a Rivals four-star defen- sive tackle to the roster following Darnell Ewell (2017), Jayson Ademi- lola (2018), Jacob Lacey (2019) and Hunter Spears (2019). ✦ FILM ANALYSIS Strengths Aidan Keanaaina fills a major need for the defense, giving it a massive and physical in- terior defender … Possesses a thick lower body and impressive natural power, which allows him to anchor against the run and eat up space … Can bull his way into the backfield, and his strong hands allow him to disengage from blocks and get to the ball carrier … Burst off the line and good pad level allows him to use his power to make plays … Does a good job moving his feet through contact. Areas For Improvement Has gotten rid of some bad body weight over the last year, but there is still room for him to continue to get in better shape … Must refine the timing of how and when he brings his hands at the snap … Pass rush moves must continue to get better … Has improved his ability to beat cut blocks, but more work is needed. — Bryan Driskell COMMITMENT PROFILE AIDAN KEANAAINA Notre Dame Lands Top Target At Defensive Tackle Keanaaina, the No. 2 player in Colorado and the No. 19 defensive tackle in the country per Rivals, selected the Fighting Irish over fellow finalists Ohio State and Florida. PHOTO COURTESY RIVALS.COM "I know Notre Dame will be a great place for me because of the people and culture there. Defensive line coach Mike Elston always told me I was a priority for them, and that my personality fits exactly what Notre Dame wants in a player." KEANAAINA

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Blue and Gold Illustrated - BGI April 2019