What To Watch: Will Kyle Hamilton’s Homecoming Lead to Breakout for Notre Dame?

I have decided this upcoming matchup with the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets is the trapiest of trap games because everyone is currently spending all of their time figuring out the exact hour and minute Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence started feeling symptoms. (If you haven’t heard, Clemson’s star QB tested positive for COVID on Wednesday, putting his availability for the only game of importance on the Notre Dame schedule* in doubt.)

(*To some.)

I hadn’t previously considered Georgia Tech to be a trap game, despite being put right ahead of the vaunted Tigers on the schedule. It’s generally harder to be trapped when playing on the road, where things are generally tougher anyway so the guard is always up, and the team still has a lot to work on as it is. Yes, they played their best overall game last week, but there is more room to get better and the team likely knows that. Brian Kelly already had to make that point to them; the days of simply counting wins are over. They need to start looking dangerous on both sides of the ball.

But, with now all of the discussion centered on what’s going on with the quarterback of next weeks opponent, and just a natural overlooking of an inferior opponent as it is, well these are the makings of a trap game situation. So that’s one big thing to watch for right off the top.

Is Jordan Johnson Going To Be A Thing?

About a week ago it was virtually certain the five star freshman receiver was not going to be a thing this season for Notre Dame. He didn’t make the travel roster, the only time he’d played prior to not traveling was late in the blowout against USF when he committed a 15 yard penalty, and when Kelly spoke of him he mentioned “traits”.

Two key injuries to the position and an Ian Book press conference later, and everyone is wondering whether Johnson is going to break out this week. Book mentioned on his weekly zoom call with the press that Johnson was up with the varsity (off the scout team) and made some amazing catches in practice. This led to reporters following up with Kelly about the freshman receiver, and Kelly stated Johnson was doing better off the field and was picking up the offense. The speculation has been rampant all week.

Part of his promotion to the varsity level seems practical; Notre Dame lost two receivers, they need bodies with which to practice with, naturally Johnson is brought up. That in itself doesn’t signal anything. It’s obviously good that Book had nice things to say about his young receiver, but that could also be a teammate picking up a teammate. First things first with Johnson, he’s got to make the travel roster, obviously. From there, he’s got to get in the game, and then we can see what he’s got.

Any time a five star caliber player starts to get time, especially one at receiver, it is news. Given Notre Dame’s uneven play at the position, and lack of star power, Johnson being able to make an impact would be a very notable development.

What’s The Chris Tyree Workload?

Over the last two weeks, the freshman running back has carried the ball 10 times for 29 yards, caught two passes for 15 yards, and returned 2 kickoffs for 29 yards. Especially in the running game, his numbers have gone the wrong way. At 2.9 yards per carry for a speed running back, he isn’t producing what he did to start the season, especially when other backs are putting up better numbers. It would not be a surprise if Tyree was hitting something of a freshman wall right about now. He’s had a good amount of work the last month or so, and taking hits from major college football defenses would figure to take some toll for a smaller back.

The one-two punch of Kyren Williams and Chris Tyree is part of what makes Notre Dame dangerous on paper, so getting him back on track is an important part of the offense. He only touched the ball three times last week, with a lot of his normal work being given to C’Bo Flemister. Let’s see if he can get it rolling again a week before the big game.

Can Kyle Hamilton Emerge As Playmaker?

Hamilton has been outstanding doing what he’s been asked to do this season. He leads the team in tackles, doesn’t give up anything deep, and when he’s assigned to a man he doesn’t allow receptions. The king of the “do your job” mentality so far. Hamilton has more to offer though. He’s the type of player that can do things for the defense that isn’t in the game plan, and can swing a game based on a big play. We haven’t seen it so far this season, but in his home state of Georgia, I wonder if we see it for the first time this season. He’s in his third game back from an ankle injury, he’s got a freshman quarterback going against him, and he must be itching for an interception, with none so far this year after four in year one in part time work.

Jeremiah Owusu Koramoah has been able to deliver the highlight reel, game changing plays so far, if Hamilton can start to match him, the defense can really take off.

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One Comment

  1. Good analysis.
    Re: Hamilton and INTs- the surest way for INTs to occur is pressuring a QB to throw an untimely pass. My biggest and for the most part only disappointment with the D’ is a lack of a consistent pass rush that would force a QB to throw inaccurately. Presenting different and/or confusing D’ formations are the surest ways to force an inexperienced young QB to make mistakes. If Lawrence is back by game time Nov. 7, his experience and accuracy won’t be the time to vary what NDs D’ does best. Let this week serve as varying D’ looks to bring pressure to maximize uncertainty and confusion to GT’s young QB.

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