Keith Gilmore

Keith Gilmore Named Notre Dame Defensive Line Coach

March 2, 2015

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Irish Extra: Keith Gilmore

Keith Gilmore, a 30-year football coaching veteran whose career includes stops at the University of Cincinnati (2007-08), Central Michigan University (2006) and Grand Valley State University (1991-93) under University of Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly, has been named defensive line coach for the Fighting Irish.

Gilmore joins the Notre Dame program from the University of North Carolina, where he spent the past two seasons as the Tar Heels’ defensive line coach, after working the previous four years (2009-12) as defensive line coach at the University of Illinois.

Gilmore guided an extremely youthful defensive line at North Carolina in 2014, highlighted by redshirt freshmen Dajaun Drennon and Nazair Jones. Drennon, the first freshman to start at defensive end at North Carolina since Kareem Martin in 2010, registered 36 tackles, five and a half tackles for loss and two sacks. Jones, who collected 35 tackles, seven and a half tackles for loss and two and a half sacks, earned Atlantic Coast Conference defensive lineman of the week honors after his performance in a victory at Duke (two and a half tackles for loss, six tackles, and a forced fumble and pass breakup versus the Blue Devils).

In 2013 Gilmore coached Martin to his most productive season at North Carolina. Martin posted 21.5 tackles for loss (fifth in the country), 11.5 sacks (ninth in the country) and ranked third on the team with 82 tackles. Martin received national defensive player of the week recognition after a dominating performance at Pittsburgh (three and a half sacks, two forced fumbles, one recovered). Martin continued a long tradition of Tar Heel defensive ends in professional football when the Arizona Cardinals selected him in the third round of the 2014 NFL Draft.

Prior to his tenure at North Carolina, Gilmore coached defensive linemen at Illinois for four seasons (2009-12). He tutored a quartet of NFL draft picks, including Akeem Spence, Mike Buchanan, Whitney Mercilus and Corey Liuget. Mercilus (2012) and Liuget (2011) were both first-round selections in the NFL Draft, while Spence and Buchanan were fourth- and seventh-round picks, respectively, in 2013.

Gilmore’s work with the Illinois defensive lines is even more impressive considering the Illini had one defensive lineman drafted over the 14 seasons before his arrival. In fact, Illinois has had four defensive linemen chosen in the first round since the NFL Draft’s inception in 1936, and Gilmore was the position coach for two of them (Mercilus and Liuget).

A consensus first-team All-American in 2011, Mercilus captured the Ted Hendricks Award, which is given to the nation’s top defensive end. He led the nation in sacks (16), sacks per game (1.23) and forced fumbles (nine) in 2011 and his nine forced fumbles that year remain a Big Ten record. Mercilus’ 16 sacks tied Simeon Rice’s single-season school record, while his 22.5 tackles for loss ranked second nationally and third all-time at Illinois.

Liuget received fourth-team All-America honors from Phil Steele in 2010. He registered 63 tackles, 12.5 for loss and four and a half sacks, as well as 10 quarterback hurries and three pass breakups. Liuget and Spence combined for 108 tackles, the most by a pair of Illini defensive tackles since 1993. Phil Steele and named Spence a Freshman All-American in 2010. Illinois’ rushing defense also limited five opponents to less than 100 yards that season.

In his first season with the Illinois defensive line in 2009, Gilmore coached a starting front four that registered 33 tackles for loss and 14.5 sacks, with Clay Nurse claiming honorable mention all-Big Ten recognition.

Gilmore spent six years with Kelly, including two seasons at Cincinnati (2007-08), one at Central Michigan (2006) and three at Grand Valley State (1991-93).

As assistant head coach and defensive line coach, Gilmore helped Cincinnati to the 2008 BIG EAST championship and a trip to the 2009 Orange Bowl. He coached a line that ranked ninth in the nation in sacks, averaging nearly three per game. The Bearcats allowed only 113.8 rushing yards per game (19th in the nation), while Cincinnati’s scoring defense (20.1 points per game) ranked 25th.

In 2007 Gilmore coached a Cincinnati defensive line that included All-American Terrill Byrd, the school’s single-season sacks leader in Anthony Hoke–and NFL draft choices Angelo Craig and Connor Barwin. His group proved to be one of the best in the BIG EAST, with the Bearcats ranking second in the conference in scoring defense (18.8) and rushing defense (114.2).

In his only season at Central Michigan in 2006, Gilmore mentored a pair of defensive linemen to all-Mid-American Conference honors for a Chippewa squad that won the Mid-American Conference crown and the Motor City Bowl.

Gilmore served as assistant head coach and defensive coordinator at Howard University for four seasons (2002-05). He also coached the defensive line for the Bison, who ranked seventh in the nation and led the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference in total defense (297.5 yards allowed per game) in 2004. The Howard defense proved even better in 2005 when the Bison ranked second in the country (255.7 yards allowed per game).

Gilmore has held internships with three National Football League teams throughout his coaching career. He spent the 1996 summer with the Green Bay Packers coaching staff, the 2002 summer with the Detroit Lions scouting department and the 2005 summer with the Pittsburgh Steelers scouting department.

Prior to his time at Howard, Gilmore spent the 1998-2001 seasons at Norfolk State University as special teams coordinator and coach of the defensive line and running backs.

A two-time all-Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference honoree as a player at Wayne State University (1979-80), Gilmore was a collegiate teammate of current Irish defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder and Irish director of football strength and conditioning Paul Longo. Gilmore began his football coaching career at his alma mater in 1985. He served separate stints at Michigan State University (1988), Northern Michigan University (1989-90), Grand Valley State (1991-93), Wayne State (1994 when VanGorder was the Tartars’ head coach) and Eastern Michigan University (1995-97).

Gilmore earned his bachelor’s degree in recreation management from Wayne State in 1981 and a master’s degree in sport administration from Michigan State in 1990. He and his wife, Bridget, have five children–Keith, Kierre, Grant, Keyontay and Grace.

The Gilmore File

Year School/Franchise Assignment
2015 Notre Dame Defensive Line
2014 North Carolina Defensive Line (Quick Lane Bowl)
2013 North Carolina Defensive Line (7-6, Belk Bowl champion)
2012 Illinois Defensive Line
2011 Illinois Defensive Line (7-6, Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl champion)
2010 Illinois Defensive Line (7-6, Texas Bowl champion)
2009 Illinois Defensive Line
2008 Cincinnati Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Line (11-3, BIG EAST champion, Orange Bowl)
2007 Cincinnati Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Line (10-3, Bowl champion)
2006 Central Michigan Defensive Line (10-4, MAC champion, Motor City Bowl champion)
2005 Howard Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator
2004 Howard Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator
2003 Howard Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator
2002 Howard Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator
2001 Norfolk State Defensive Line/Running Backs/Special Teams
2000 Norfolk State Defensive Line/Running Backs/Special Teams
1999 Norfolk State Defensive Line/Running Backs/Special Teams
1998 Norfolk State Defensive Line/Running Backs/Special Teams
1997 Eastern Michigan Running Backs Coach/Special Teams Coordinator
1996 Eastern Michigan Running Backs Coach/Special Teams Coordinator
1995 Eastern Michigan Running Backs Coach/Special Teams Coordinator
1994 Wayne State Running Backs Coach/Special Teams Coordinator
1993 Grand Valley State Linebackers/Running Backs/Recruiting Coordinator
1992 Grand Valley State Linebackers/Running Backs/Recruiting Coordinator
(8-2, MIFC co-champions)
1991 Grand Valley State Linebackers/Running Backs/Recruiting Coordinator
(9-3, NCAA Division II playoffs)
1990 Northern Michigan Running Backs
1989 Northern Michigan Running Backs
1988 Michigan State Graduate Assistant (6-5-1, Gator Bowl)
1987 Wayne State Linebackers/Running Backs
1986 Wayne State Linebackers/Running Backs
1985 Wayne State Linebackers/Running Backs