Hamilton, Okwara, and Vaughn Continue To Star For Notre Dame In Fall Camp

We are five practices in to fall camp 2019 for the Notre Dame football team, and the media has been on hand for two full practices. Not enough to make any declarations (well, maybe some), but certainly enough to identify some trends.

Before getting into the specifics, there is some house cleaning to attend to injury wise.

  • Early enrollee freshman Quinn Carroll has been lost for the season due to a serious knee injury suffered during Wednesday’s practice. This is unlikely to impact the 2019 team; Carroll was almost a sure redshirt candidate. But, Carroll had looked good in the summer and spring, and losing a year of development for an offensive tackle candidate to replace Eichenberg or Hainsey isn’t what you want.
  • Running back Jahmir Smith broke a bone in his left hand, although he has not missed any practice as a result.
  • Tight end Cole Kmet left Thursday’s practice with a shoulder injury and did not return. It was later reported that Kmet broke his collarbone.

The Kmet injury is obviously the most concerning; he’s somewhat of a litmus test for the upcoming year. It’s hard to imagine a big season from him not leading to big things for Notre Dame.

Julian Okwara, Good Football Player

The hope has been Okwara makes a leap this year, with him leading that charge stating he wants 18 sacks this season. All indications so far suggest that leap is on the way.

He reportedly had his way with tackles Liam Eichenberg and Robert Hainsey during the Thursday’s practice, leading to two sacks and a play wrecking pressure on the third. Notre Dame is already good at defensive end, as has been covered extensively by pretty much everyone. But, it’s one thing to have a few very good defensive ends. It’s another when you have a few very good defensive ends and one who is at the top of the sport who offensive coordinators need to game plan around. In fact, this is what you’d call the dream scenario.

And before panicking about what it means for Eichenberg and Hainsey to have been beaten this badly, consider what we already know about those two. We know they can play at a high level, especially in the passing game. This isn’t their first rodeo, especially Hainsey. If Okwara can handle those two, that’s evidence he’s matchup proof. Meaning, it doesn’t matter who they’ve got, our guy is better than everyone.

Donte Vaughn Having A Senior Bump?

We wrote about Vaughn post-Sunday open practice, and he’s being written about today, after having another strong showing in front of the media. A few seasons ago I wrote about senior bump candidates in the pre-season. These are players entering their last season, and for whatever reason, they just put it all together. This is one of those things where it’s too early to say definitively, but there is absolutely a trend.

It’s also an important reminder that when evaluating college athletes, there is so much that goes into whether someone busts or explodes that we have no idea about. Should Vaughn break through, it’d be a pretty clear indication that the injuries he’s been playing through the last couple of seasons were more hampering than initially thought.

As highlighted after Sunday’s practice, Vaughn in the lineup would give Notre Dame an all senior secondary, needed size opposite of Pride, and a guy who has played meaningful minutes. It would also allow underclassmen TaRiq Bracy, Houston Griffith, Isaiah Rutherford, and CJ Wallace to grow into roles instead of being forced into action before they are ready.

Kyle Hamilton Continues To Shine

There is no hiding it now. Hamilton will play, and he will play a lot. He was the only player to register an interception on Thursday, after hauling in three on the first day. He destroyed freshman receiver Cam Hart during a special teams drill and has generally never not looked good according to reports.

Hamilton is what you get when you combine ideal size, incredible athleticism, and tremendous instincts. It’s time we start thinking about Hamilton the way we thought about Jaylon Smith and Manti Te’o. The difference between those players is the services were quicker to rate the linebackers, while sleeping on Hamilton till the very end of his high school career. Bottom line is so far he has been tremendous, and they have to find a way to get him in the rotation, even while playing a stacked position.

Camp News & Notes

  • After a rough opening day, Phil Jurkovec has turned in two solid performances in a row. First, he was singled out by Brian Kelly post-practice on Wednesday and was impressive for the media again on Thursday. One thing he has always been consistent with is his ability to throw the deep ball, and he was back at it on Thursday. It should be noted that Brandon Wimbush was also plagued with having a bad practice and then some good ones to follow. Obviously, this can lead to good results, but it’s not ideal. But, good news is good news so we’ll take it.
  • Tony Jones was also singled out by Kelly this week, and he also looked good in front of the media on Thursday. Lead back Jafar Armstrong has an injury history, so the more Jones impresses in camp, the better.
  • Freshman walk-on kicker Harrison Leonard was reportedly 5-5 on the day Thursday while Johnathon Doerer was 4-7. The distances are unknown, but if Leonard can consistently make kicks from whatever range is most comfortable, that’s most important. The offense can plan around his limits.

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  1. Greg, I like this article, but the gem of the preseason was your one about the “Wimbush approach” to the linebackers.
    Bilal is at the top of the LB depth chart, Drew White close, but, if your theory is correct as we get into October (or past Georgia)
    the underclassmen will be worked in more and take more snaps away from Bilal and White.

    It will be fun to watch..

  2. Greg , Hamilton can really help the secondary–now in 2019. I like the way Clark Lea and his secondary coaches Todd Lyght/Terry Joseph are all in sync on moving players around — practicing at multiple positions. Crawford spending practice time at safety is allowing options of certain guys to go to Nickle slot. Probably Elliot in reports I’ve read. Also Safety Gilman along side Crawford and and/or new kid Hamilton ain’t bad. Nickle position is essential in Defense — So, lots of chess moves going on—-where coaches can chore up D during season–depending on opponent. Same thing going on with Linebacker unit. Go Irish

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