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Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 14 Kyle Hamilton, freshman safety, consensus four-star

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Listed Measurements: 6-foot-3, 185 pounds.
2019-20 year, eligibility: A freshman, Hamilton has all four seasons of eligibility remaining, including 2019.
Depth chart: Notre Dame has two established starting senior safeties in Alohi Gilman and Jalen Elliott, but behind them is a chance for Hamilton to enter the two-deep in August. Sophomores Derrik Allen and (converted-cornerback) D.J. Brown are the only other safeties awaiting Hamilton and fellow freshman Litchfield Ajavon, and neither of the sophomores earned their way onto the field last year (aside from three plays for Brown at Wake Forest), forcing the starters to play nearly every single defensive snap. Irish defensive coordinator Clark Lea will want to avoid that fate again this season, meaning the competition for backup safety roles will be a pertinent one.
Recruiting: The consensus four-star prospect, All-American and 2018 USA Today second-team All-American turned down Clemson, Georgia, Michigan and Ohio State to sign with Notre Dame. The No. 7 safety in the country and No. 75 overall recruit in the class, per rivals.com, Hamilton did not become a hyped four-star prospect until relatively late in the cycle, a strong junior season and camp circuit earning him the eventual recognition.

QUOTE(S)
Expectations are not meager for Hamilton. Rare is the freshman defensive back who warrants a springtime question about him specifically before he even arrives on campus, yet at the end of spring practices, Lea was asked if Hamilton could come in and play right away.

“Any expectation for any of these guys coming in is going to be overblown and no one is going to be camera ready, so to speak, nor is anybody going to be counted out,” Lea said. “… We look, we anticipate, we think about where someone might come in and help us, might supplement depth, might compete for a starting job. We don’t eliminate any option, there’s no reason for us to.

“Our energy with the incoming guys is spent on how they are preparing themselves for when they get on campus. If they can do that the right way, then they have a higher chance of being effective.”

WHAT WAS SAID WHEN HAMILTON’S NATIONAL LETTER OF INTENT ARRIVED
“The praise for Hamilton has become universal, with hardly a hole in his game aside from the slightness that comes from not having spent time in a collegiate strength and conditioning program. Hamilton also excelled at receiver in high school, using his basketball instincts to routinely high-point the ball. He will not play there at Notre Dame, but his ability to track down the ball should still show itself.”

2019 OUTLOOK
It is the usual practice of this space to temper hopes for the highest-rated recruits as they arrive in South Bend. (See: Jurkovec, Phil; a year ago.) That may not be the needed course of action this time around, partly because a 2019 ceiling already exists for Hamilton due to the proven presences of Gilman and Elliott; no one looks at the freshman as a possible starter.

Hamilton’s greatest flaw is compounded by one of his assets. A long frame will help him in years to come, but right now it emphasizes his lack of muscle. If some sticks to him this summer under the direction of Irish strength and conditioning coordinator Matt Balis, then Hamilton could/should spell Elliott and/or Gilman (more likely the former).

If Hamilton proves adept in coverage in the preseason, his role could expand beyond mere relief. Notre Dame is still looking for an answer at nickel back. Current options include fifth-year Shaun Crawford as he recovers from injury, sophomore cornerbacks Houston Griffith and TaRiq Bracy, and freshman cornerback K.J. Wallace. Not only could Hamilton get a chance to prove himself, but he could also give Elliott a chance, with Hamilton then at safety in situational packages. (Crawford’s health remains a concern, the sophomores will be needed on the outside, and Hamilton should simply be better than Wallace.)

One way or another, Hamilton should be expected to play more than an eligibility-preserving four games. Projecting a tackle count without knowing his precise role becomes difficult, but simply looking at Hamilton’s length, a pass breakup or two should be his minimum. Notching those would indicate Hamilton has a grasp on the defensive system and offer assurance the Irish will have competent safety play in the future. Just two seasons ago, all Notre Dame safeties combined for five pass breakups total; a freshman managing a couple should not be taken for granted.

DOWN THE ROAD
Elliott is out of eligibility after this year. Gilman will have a season remaining, but there is reason to think he will jump to the NFL anyway if 2019 goes well for him. Brown is as new to the position as Hamilton is to college.

That is the long way of saying Hamilton should start alongside Allen, or possibly Ajavon, in 2020. If he does not, that is more a concern for the Irish because of the lack of other projectable options than it is an indictment of recruiting rankings.

NOTRE DAME 99-to-2:
Introduction
No. 95: Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, defensive tackle
No. 94: Isaiah Foskey, freshman defensive end, consensus four-star
No. 94: Darnell Ewell, defensive tackle
No. 91: Ade Ogundeji, defensive end
No. 90: Hunter Spears, defensive tackle, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 89: Brock Wright, tight end
No. 88: Javon McKinley, receiver
No. 87: Michael Young, receiver
No. 85: George Takacs, tight end
No. 84: Cole Kmet, tight end
No. 83: Chase Claypool, receiver
No. 80: Micah Jones, receiver
No. 78: Tommy Kraemer, right guard, three-year starter
No. 77: Quinn Carroll, offensive tackle, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 76: Dillan Gibbons, offensive guard
No. 75: Josh Lugg, offensive lineman
No. 74: Liam Eichenberg, left tackle, two-year starter
No. 73: Andrew Kristofic, offensive tackle, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 72: Robert Hainsey, offensive tackle, three-year starter
No. 71: John Olmstead, offensive lineman, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 69: Aaron Banks, left guard
No. 60: Cole Mabry, offensive tackle
No. 57: Trevor Ruhland, veteran backup offensive lineman
No. 57: Jayson Ademilola, defensive tackle
No. 56: John Dirksen, offensive lineman
No. 56: Howard Cross, incoming freshman defensive lineman, consensus four-star
No. 55: Jarrett Patterson, starting center
No. 55: Ja’Mion Franklin, defensive tackle returning from injury
No. 54: Jacob Lacey, consensus four-star defensive tackle, early enrollee
No. 54: John Shannon, long snapper
No. 53: Khalid Kareem, senior defensive end
No. 52: Zeke Correll, consensus four-star center, early enrollee
No. 52: Bo Bauer, linebacker, sophomore
No. 47: Kofi Wardlow, junior defensive end
No. 45: Jonathan Jones, senior inside linebacker
No. 44: Jamir Jones, senior defensive end
No. 42: Julian Okwara, senior defensive end
No. 41: Kurt Hinish, junior defensive tackle
No. 40: Drew White, junior inside linebacker
No. 39: Jonathan Doerer, junior kicker
No. 35: TaRiq Bracy, sophomore cornerback
No. 35: Marist Liufau, Hawaiian freshman linebacker
No. 34: Jahmir Smith, sophomore running back
No. 34: Osita Ekwonu, inside linebacker, consensus four-star
No. 33: Shayne Simon, sophomore linebacker
No. 31: Jack Lamb, sophomore linebacker
No. 30: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, junior linebacker
No. 29: Ovie Oghoufo, sophomore linebacker-turned-defensive end
No. 27: J.D. Bertrand, consensus four-star linebacker
No. 25: Braden Lenzy, speedy sophomore receiver
No. 24: Tommy Tremble, sophomore tight end
No. 24: Jack Kiser, early-enrolled freshman linebacker, Mr. Indiana Football
No. 23: Litchfield Ajavon, four-star safety, freshman
No. 23: Kyren Williams, early-enrolled freshman running back
No. 22: Kendall Abdur-Rahman, quarterback-turned-receiver, freshman
No. 22: Asmar Bilal, the only returning starting linebacker
No. 21: Jalen Elliott, three-year starting safety
No. 20: Shaun Crawford, defensive back returning from yet another injury
No. 20: C’Bo Flemister, sophomore running back
No. 19: Jay Bramblett, freshman punter
No. 19: Justin Ademilola, sophomore defensive end
No. 18: Joe Wilkins, sophomore receiver
No. 18: Nana Osafo-Mensah, freshman defensive end, consensus four-star
No. 17: Isaiah Robertson, junior receiver
No. 16: K.J. Wallace, freshman defensive back, three-star
No. 15 Isaiah Rutherford, freshman defensive back, consensus four-star
No. 15: Phil Jurkovec, sophomore quarterback