Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 14 Kyle Hamilton, junior safety, preseason All-American, top 2022 draft prospect

Kyle Hamilton Notre Dame
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Listed measurements: 6-foot-4, 219 pounds.
2021-22 year, eligibility: A junior, Hamilton has three seasons of eligibility remaining thanks to the universal pandemic eligibility waiver, but by no means should anyone imagine he will use more than one of those years.
Depth Chart: Hamilton will start for Notre Dame at safety, and he will not come off the field in any package except the one designed to enjoy blowouts.
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 the Irish. 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 subsequent camp circuit earning him the eventual recognition.

Despite that late recruiting rise, Notre Dame pursued Hamilton relatively early in the cycle, before that ratings bump, thanks to a tip from a friend of former safeties coach Terry Joseph when he was still coaching at North Carolina, closer to Hamilton’s home of Atlanta. Joseph joined the Irish in the winter of 2017 and began his pursuit of Hamilton in earnest halfway through Hamilton’s junior year. He had shined on the field, but that camp boost had not yet occurred.

Hamilton has been a fit with Notre Dame in nearly every regard, so maybe he would have headed to South Bend regardless, but the early Irish arrival in his consideration certainly helped the cause.

NAME, IMAGE, LIKENESS
Of the entire roster, Hamilton was positioned to be the biggest beneficiary of name, image and likeness rights this month, and he has indeed followed through on those possibilities. The preseason All-American has launched a podcast with a few teammates, will hold a youth football camp, has a sponsorship deal with apparel company Rhoback and offers Cameo videos for a mere $49, and that list is not comprehensive.

But the top item Hamilton has done is launch his own line of apparel, sporting a logo blending his initials with his uniform number.

Hamilton will assuredly continue to profit off his name, image and likeness, and rightfully so. As his draft prospects become more solidified, a few national brands should even begin to seek him out.

CAREER TO DATE
Hamilton did not enroll early at Notre Dame, but within his first few preseason practices, he made it clear he did not need that head start. The stories from his first preseason with the Irish border on myth, intercepting enough passes that the unofficial counts varied from four to 10. Fittingly, his first snap at Notre Dame Stadium resulted in an interception returned for a touchdown.

Myth had immediately become reality.

Hamilton played in all 13 games as a freshman, the third safety behind seniors Alohi Gilman and Jalen Elliott, providing them both rest and flexibility. He moved into a starting role in 2020 and led the Irish in tackles, but made only one interception, the result of opposing quarterbacks knowing better than to test the All-American. On 580 snaps last season, quarterbacks threw toward Hamilton 31 times, on which he gave up 18 catches for 138 yards, a 4.45 yards per attempt average.

2019: 13 games; 41 tackles with one for loss, four interceptions and 10 passes defended.
2020: 11 games; 63 tackles with 4.5 for loss, one interception and seven passes defended.

QUOTES
New Notre Dame defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman undoubtedly did not choose the Irish over LSU this offseason solely because of Hamilton, but having a first-team All-American anchoring the back end of your defense in your first season at a new stop is obviously a nice safety net, pun only somewhat intended.

“You look at Kyle and you can tell the skill set that he brings,” Freeman said in April. “The length he brings to our defense 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.”

But Hamilton has not yet played in front of Freeman. Those assessments were made simply by walking by Hamilton, not by seeing him in practice. The star was held out all spring as he recovered from minor ankle surgery, more a precaution than an actual need to sideline him.

“The hardest thing for him is we have to continue to push him when he’s not practicing,” Freeman said. “… He’s a film junkie. He and [safeties coach Chris] 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. That’s what he’s got to do.”

To be clear, Hamilton was running by the end of spring practices and will be full-go when the preseason commences.

2021 OUTLOOK
Consensus and unanimous statuses are not tracked in the preseason, but suffice it to say, Hamilton is a preseason first-team All-American, and if he plays to form, he should end up a unanimous first-team All-American at season’s end.

He is one of the best defenders in the country, and Freeman and Notre Dame will rely on him to play as such. Hamilton’s length and range in the defensive backfield provide flexibility to Freeman’s defense that may make up for some inconsistencies and development elsewhere.

That multitude of duties awaiting Hamilton makes projecting his stats a difficult endeavor, so let’s instead simply say, Hamilton will impact 13 games this season, one way or another.

DOWN THE ROAD
Barring injury, Hamilton will be no lower than a top-10 pick this spring, and it is more likely he is within the top five than not. He should be an NFL starter in 2022.

NOTRE DAME 99-TO-0
Let’s try this again
No. 99 Rylie Mills, sophomore defensive tackle
No. 98 Alexander Ehrensberger, sophomore defensive end
No. 97 Gabriel Rubio, early-enrolled freshman defensive tackle the size of a Volkswagen
No. 95 Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, fifth-year defensive tackle-turned-end
No. 92 Aidan Keanaaina, sophomore defensive tackle
No. 88 Mitchell Evans, early-enrolled freshman tight end, a former high school quarterback
No. 87 Michael Mayer, star sophomore tight end and lead offensive weapon
No. 85 George Takacs, senior tight end, ‘152 years old’
No. 84 Kevin Bauman, sophomore tight end
No. 82 Xavier Watts, sophomore receiver
No. 81 Jay Brunelle, speedy sophomore receiver
No. 80 Cane Berrong, early-enrolled freshman tight end
No. 79 Tosh Baker, sophomore offensive tackle
No. 78 Pat Coogan, incoming freshman center
No. 77 Quinn Carroll, junior offensive lineman
No. 76 Joe Alt, incoming and towering freshman offensive lineman
No. 75 Josh Lugg, fifth-year right tackle, finally a starter
No. 73 Andrew Kristofic, junior offensive tackle, possible backup center
No. 72 Caleb Johnson, early-enrolled offensive tackle, former Auburn commit
No. 70 Hunter Spears, junior offensive guard, former defensive tackle
No. 68 Michael Carmody, sophomore offensive tackle
No. 62 Marshall guard Cain Madden transfers to Notre Dame, likely 2021 starter
No. 57 Jayson Ademilola, senior defensive tackle
No. 56 John Dirksen, senior reserve offensive lineman
No. 56 Howard Cross, junior defensive tackle
No. 55 Jarrett Patterson, the best Irish offensive lineman
No. 54 Jacob Lacey, junior defensive tackle
No. 54 Blake Fisher, early-enrolled freshman left tackle, starter?
No. 52 Zeke Correll, junior, starting center
No. 52 Bo Bauer, senior linebacker, #BeADog
No. 50 Rocco Spindler, early-enrolled freshman offensive guard
No. 48 Will Schweitzer, early-enrolled freshman defensive end
No. 44 Devin Aupiu, early-enrolled freshman defensive end
No. 44 Alex Peitsch and No. 65 Michael Vinson, Irish long snappers, both needed
No. 41 Kurt Hinish, fifth-year defensive tackle, eventual record-holder in games played
No. 40 Drew White, fifth-year linebacker, three-year starter
No. 39 Jonathan Doerer, fifth-year kicker, using the pandemic exception
No. 38 Jason Onye, incoming and raw freshman defensive end
No. 37 Joshua Bryan, incoming freshman kicker
No. 35 Marist Liufau, junior Hawaiian linebacker
No. 34 Osita Ekwonu, junior defensive end
No. 33 Shayne Simon, senior linebacker
No. 29 Matt Salerno, senior punt returner, walk-on
No. 28 TaRiq Bracy, senior cornerback, possible nickel back
No. 27 JD Bertrand, junior linebacker
No. 26 Clarence Lewis, sophomore cornerback, second-year starter
No. 25 Philip Riley, early-enrolled freshman cornerback
No. 25 Chris Tyree, speedy sophomore running back
No. 24 Jack Kiser, junior linebacker, onetime pandemic hero
No. 23 Litchfield Ajavon, junior safety
No. 23 Kyren Williams, junior running back
No. 22 Logan Diggs, incoming freshman running back
No. 22 Chance Tucker, freshman cornerback
No. 21 Lorenzo Styles, early-enrolled freshman receiver
No. 21 Caleb Offord, sophomore cornerback
No. 20 C’Bo Flemister, senior running back, coming off an offseason with a smirch
No. 20 Justin Walters, early-enrolled freshman safety and likely early special teams contributor
No. 19 Jay Bramblett, junior punter
No. 19 Justin Ademilola, senior defensive end
No. 18 Joe Wilkins Jr., senior receiver, team favorite
No. 18 Nana Osafo-Mensah, junior defensive end, coming back from a knee injury
No. 17 Jack Coan, graduate quarterback, Wisconsin transfer
No. 17 Jordan Botelho, sophomore defensive end, full-speed at all times
No. 16 Deion Colzie, incoming freshman receiver with both speed and leaping height
No. 16 KJ Wallace, junior safety, possible starting nickel back
No. 15 Ryan Barnes, early-enrolled freshman cornerback