Kyle Hamilton should be some kind of weapon for the Notre Dame defense again this fall.
Unfortunately, the All-America candidate at safety will be watching Saturday’s Blue-Gold Game from the sidelines, just as Hamilton has been forced to do for the entirety of spring practice as he recovers from postseason ankle surgery.
“The hardest thing for him is we’ve got to continue to push him even though he’s not practicing,” first-year defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman said. “This would’ve been a great spring for him.”
With Hamilton out, D.J. Brown and Houston Griffith have been getting extra reps up the middle. But Hamilton’s importance to this defense goes way beyond his position group.
Hard-hitting Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah is headed to the NFL, where he could be a top-20 pick in this week’s draft and is projected by some as the first linebacker taken.
Hamilton, who led last year’s team in tackle by one over Owusu-Koramoah, almost certainly inherits the mantle of the one Fighting Irish defender opposing offenses must game plan around.
Five weeks with Freeman this spring, five weeks of seeing the dynamic velociraptor fly around on the back end and invade the tackle box and even the offensive backfield, would have been extremely valuable for all concerned.
MORE FOR YOU
Instead, it’s been a mountain of mental reps with plenty of sideline and meeting-room conversations mixed in. Not only with Freeman, newly arrived from Cincinnati, but with new safeties coach Chris O’Leary, who replaces the departed Terry Joseph.
“Kyle is a film junkie,” Freeman said. “He and coach O’Leary are always in there watching film. He’s always trying to find ways to improve. He’s like a coach sometimes back there. I see him coaching those young safeties up.”
Day-dreaming is not an option for Hamilton, the quarterback of the defense. It isn’t enough that he prepares to wreak havoc from his position, starting Labor Day weekend at Florida State.
He must know how to recognize the keys that will unleash hell from the other 10 spots as well.
“You look at Kyle and you can tell the skill set he brings,” Freeman said. “The length he brings to our back end is second to none. You can watch the film from last year, but until you see this guy live and in person, you don’t realize how long and how much room and area and space he can take up.”
Middle linebacker Drew White, the team’s No. 2 returning tackler, is out this spring as well after suffering a high ankle sprain early in camp. That means none of Notre Dame’s top five tacklers in 2020 are at Freeman’s disposal this spring.
Safety Shaun Crawford and cornerback Nick McCloud are headed to the pros as well.
That means some of those sideline conversations Freeman is having this spring are at least as important as what’s taking place between the lines.
“Physically, you can’t be out there,” Freeman said, “so mentally you have to strain your mind and push yourself to work even with you not being out here. I’m excited to get (Hamilton) back for the fall.”