Notre Dame Football: Playing Kyle Hamilton On Offense

If you are a follower of my Twitter feed, you know I’ve been on the “play Kyle Hamilton on offense” train for some time. It at first started out as a bit, but has since grown into something I think truly ought to happen.

The issue came to the surface yesterday when Brendan McAlindon of One Foot Down posted a meme of Tommy Rees and yours truly, with me imploring Rees to play Kyle on offense. Usually these are just fun internet happenings, then Kyle Hamilton himself got involved and things took off a bit.

To be clear, this isn’t confirmation of anything and it could very well be internet fun with nothing to it, but since it came up between a couple of the major parties I figured I’d put my complete thoughts on the subject in a full piece.

How Could This Work?

Usually when the topic of Kyle Hamilton on offense comes up the natural reaction is to recommend throwing him some fades at the goal line. Not that this is a bad idea, it is very much not, but it doesn’t have to be limited to that. Remember, Kyle was a two way player in high school and was used in a variety of ways–jet sweeps, post routes, wild cat quarterback, quick screens. And according to what his mother posted during all of the happenings yesterday, he was quite effective at all of those things.

The point is, Kyle is not new to having the ball in his hands in a variety of ways and would not be a fish out of water on that side of the ball.

Imagine a lineup of Kevin Austin to the field, Michael Mayer in the slot, Kyle Hamilton to the boundary, with Kyren Williams and Chris Tyree in the back field, motioning around and looking generally threatening. This is somewhere inside the opponent 40 yard line. There is quite a bit to be concerned with for the defense, which is kind of the point. They’ll want to focus on Meyer and Austin, but then there is a cyborg to the boundary, and also versatility and speed in the backfield. Given the size of this group, running is very much in play, vertical passing is in play, short passing in play.

Or how about a situation where Kyle lines up slightly detached almost like a tight end, with Mayer in the slot, and Austin outside of them in trips. This way Kyle can get matched up down the middle with either a safety or linebacker, much like Florida used Kyle Pitts so effectively last season. If you want to see how this could look, this is how is high school team used him to expose defenses.

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This of course does not have to be a regular thing, maybe 5-10 snaps a game. But, it doesn’t take much for a player like him to effective, that’s the whole point. He’s so talented he only needs a few opportunities to wreck a defense or create a big play.

Will It Impact His Play On Defense?

This is a variable that is hard to project and something I’ve heard quite a bit is “he’s too important to the defense” which I initially took as not wanting him to get hurt. The more I thought about it, I saw it as more of statement of needing to keep his play on the defensive side at as high a level as possible. There is a scenario where Kyle saves some energy defensively because he’s got some offensive snaps coming. If you’ve ever gone both ways at the high school level, or beyond, you know there is a certain degree of energy management there. Would that be mitigated by more of a bit role?

I figured rather than prognosticate how that might go, I should ask someone who has actually been in this position. Jeff Burris is a former first team All-American safety at Notre Dame while also playing on the offensive side of the ball for two seasons. Throughout his career, Burris touched the ball offensively 30 times for 139 yards and 11 touchdowns. He is currently the cornerbacks coach at the University of Louisiana and he was kind enough to talk to me about his experience at Notre Dame and how he managed his time between the two positions.

“It did not take away a minute of my prep time on defense,” Burris said. “I was pretty aware of what we were doing schematically on defense and we had only designated certain days to go over the offensive package.”

One of the bigger issues regarding whether to play Kyle on offense is the tole that could be placed on his body and the threat of injury. Burris indicated it wasn’t a worry for him.

“As far as the wear and tear, I loved being on the field so I NEVER thought about it at all,” he said. “If me being on the field was going to help us win then I was all in.” Burris was also in favor of the idea of using Kyle on the offensive side of the ball.

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“I think he is a phenomenal athlete and football player. And I can tell he loves to play the game of football. I was fortunate enough to play on the goal line offense solely because we had some studs on our D-Line. Coach Holtz decided to move me from the first defense to see if I could be effective. It wasn’t necessarily anything I did, Aaron Taylor, Tim Ruddy, Todd Norman and the rest of the O-Line did their thing and the rest is history. It was just a simple opportunity allotted to me,” Burris explained. “It was not a best player on the team situation like with Kyle.”

“Do I think Kyle should play offense? Absolutely! He is the best player on the team and should be given every opportunity to show the country his talents.”

The Risk Of Injury

This is of course frequently mentioned and I don’t give it much credence. Of course there is risk involved, if the player is ok with it and the family is ok with it what more is there to talk about? Kyle got hurt in the first game last year on some fluke play where someone fell on his ankle. That didn’t stop them from sending Kyle down to cover punts when he returned to the lineup. We’ve seen star and indispensable players such as Drue Tranquill, Alohi Gilman, Chase Claypool, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, and Kyle himself running down to cover punts and kickoffs. Why is it an acceptable injury risk for Kyle to cover kicks, but not to catch touchdowns? That doesn’t make much sense to me.

Go For It

All offseason we’ve heard talk of taking chances and being aggressive. But, when it comes to playing the best player on offense and defense, they don’t want it. I say if the player wants it and the staff can use him, then go for it. It can help the team. Everyone knows Kyle is special. Words and words being written about him being generational this offseason. So use your generational player. He can do things the opponent can’t scheme against and you can’t really scheme for. He can make plays that aren’t there to be made. So let’s do it and be legends.

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