If you’ve been following this space over the last year, you know there has been a great deal of excitement regarding freshman safety Kyle Hamilton. First, it came when he was a recruit, then as a commit, and now as a freshman who just completed his first practice.
The hype has been building for some time. He jumped some 900+ spots in recruiting rankings in a year, looked great in the summer camps and then again in the postseason All-American game. The Athletic’s Pete Sampson traveled to see Hamilton over the summer, chronicling how he was preparing for his first season as a college football player. Then the summer buzz started.
Hamilton reportedly looked great in summer workouts, and that was proven correct in some fashion when he reported to camp at 210 pounds, a full 20 pounds heavier than his listed high school weight. There was even some talk about him playing offense, a notion that Irish Illustrated’s Tim Prister and Tim O’Malley did not shoot down during their latest podcast.
And finally, as Notre Dame opened fall camp today, we were greeted with this tweet from Sampson:
First practice in the books.
You’ll be reading plenty about Kyle Hamilton now. Three picks. Ridiculous talent and the roster knows it.
— Pete Sampson (@PeteSampson_) August 4, 2019
Three picks his first time out. Should be noted two of them came off of tipped balls, and backup Phil Jurkovec threw them all. But, great players find the ball, and sometimes it feels like the ball finds them. Whatever the case, it looks like the hype was warranted, and perhaps the best part of all of this is Brian VanGorder isn’t around to screw it up. So, if you’ve yet to purchase your Hamilton stock, I suggest you get on that because pretty soon you’ll be seen as late to the party.
A Rebirth For Donte Vaughn?
Among the surprising nuggets that came out of the first practice was Donte Vaughn running with the first team at field corner, opposite Troy Pride. Vaughn was first off the bench at boundary corner last season, as he was the one who was unfortunate enough to replace Julian Love against Clemson. His struggles last season were well chronicled, both in the playoffs and against Pitt.
There was some cautious optimism surrounding Vaughn during the offseason from the beat reporters. The thinking has been that various ailments, including a torn labrum he played through last season, have hampered his development. Now that he’s healthy, he can give it a real shot. It appears he has earned the chance to run with the ones so far.
Stylistically he’s a good compliment to Pride, whose game featured speed and explosiveness, and at 6-3, 210 presents a different type of player for receivers to contend with. One unpadded practice is not gospel of course, but adding a senior to the starting lineup would give the Irish four seniors in the back, and nice balance with the relative youth at linebacker.
Owusu-Koramoah Ready To Explode?
A player consistently mentioned in reports as being impressive was Rover Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, who ran with the first team. You may recall the excitement from the coaching staff about his athleticism when he signed. He was the initial “we brought him in to play Rover” guy. With three seasons of weight-room work under his belt, he has gone from just an impressive athlete to a player ready to compete in all facets of the game. With question marks all over the linebacking corps, any semblance of consistency will be welcomed from the staff.
JOK’s specialty is in pass coverage, as you’d expect coming from a high school safety, and he hauled in an interception from Ian Book today while breaking up two other passes. It’s one thing to play good coverage and be in position; it’s another thing to break the pass up, as we all know from the Julian Love era that is now in the past.
With the emergence of JOK at Rover and reports of a strong showing from Jack Lamb today, there is a real possibility we see a Lamb, Bilal, JOK trio at linebacker. That lineup is short on experience (save for Bilal) but extremely long on athleticism. It would likely be the most athletic group Kelly has ever put on the field. So, we’ve got that going for us.
Obligatory Kevin Austin Update
It’s been widely reported Austin will miss some time this year due to a team imposed suspension. This was all but confirmed when Kelly stated at his opening presser “he’s still on the team, but it’s day to day with him.” As far as comments about suspended players go, that’s not a good one. For example, Kelly was very positive about Dexter Williams all offseason, despite his status.
One practice in and Austin has been relegated to barely third-team reps. There was some speculation this suspension would be shorter, but it doesn’t appear that way. The good news is Notre Dame does have a track record of suspended players coming back and playing well, as Williams and Kevin Stepherson did.