Everyone knows that when Notre Dame plays North Carolina tonight, they will do so without all-world safety Kyle Hamilton. Just because Hamilton won’t be on the field for the Irish tonight, however, it doesn’t mean he won’t have an impact on the outcome. Through his injury this week, Hamilton’s leadership has been shining through as he helps coach up the young players behind him who will attempt to mitigate his loss against Sam Howell and the Tar Heel offense.
” Hamilton’s doing well,” Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said on Thursday. “It’s been a coaching week for him. He’s done a really good job. He’s working with the safeties and totally engaged being a captain and doing a great job.”
One player in particular that Hamilton has taken under his wing this week is sophomore Xavier Watts, the converted wide receiver turned linebacker turned defensive back. “He’s been cross-training both at safety and the nickel position,” Kelly said. “Kyle has been working with him directly 1-on-1 this week, so that’s been his student.”
Watts started the season as a wide receiver but moved to ROVER after the rash of injuries at linebacker and following the rise of freshmen Lorenzo Styles and Deion Colzie. Linebacker seemed like a curious move for him at the time, given his size, so defensive back seems to make more sense. Some thought Watts was a better safety prospect than receiver prospect when he was initially recruited.
With Hamilton’s future as a top-5 NFL Draft pick, it would be very easy for him to solely focus on his rehab this week and not engage with the Irish defense. But, instead, Hamilton has been almost a player-coach this week – a shinning example of Hamilton’s leadership and maturity.
There’s been a lot of chatter on Twitter and the boards about whether or not we’ve seen the last of Hamilton given his status as a surefire top-5 pick, but to date, everything that Brian Kelly has said publicly indicates that we will see Hamilton again this season. At the time of the injury last weekend, it certainly didn’t look good with the way he went down. So the fact that there’s even a chance he returns is a positive in and of itself.
If the Irish were to drop a game or two before Hamilton’s ready to return, who knows how things might change. Regardless, we know that Hamilton is still very much involved with the Irish defense this week. We know that he is acting very much like the captain and leader that he is.