I heard the talk about Georgia safety Kyle Hamilton when he committed and frankly I was dubious. Low three star players are usually rated that way for a reason. Yeah, the guys on the Notre Dame beat were pumping him up, from Tim Prister at Irish Illustrated to Bryan Driskell at BGI. These things happen with new commitments sometimes. But, like most people who follow recruiting, I found his junior season highlight film on Hudl, gave it the once over.
I should note that I’m pre-disposed to like any safety; I played the position in high school and junior college. They are my people. But, I’ll be darned if I haven’t watched Kyle Hamilton’s tape double digit times in the last month. It’s one of those things where I watch and think maybe looking at consensus rankings and ratings are just a waste of time and no one should care. Because I get all of the talk about skipping offseason camps and not being a huge part of the “recruiting scene”. But, again, I look at the film and think, “what do these guys want to see that isn’t there?”
Anyway, it doesn’t matter much to me, because he’s solidly in the Notre Dame class, so let’s talk about how good I think he is.
The term ball skills is used a lot, but it’s not exactly a scientific term. It could mean different things to different people. Could it mean the player has good hands? Can judge the flight of the ball? Is good with the ball in the air? Luckily, whatever your particular definition, Kyle Hamilton is good at it. For me it’s important that a defensive back is comfortable playing with his back to the play after the ball has been thrown. Julian Love is good at this. Nick Watkins is not, which is why he struggled so often on jump balls.
Kyle Hamilton showed on a couple of occasions to be comfortable dealing with the ball in the air and I highlight one here. He’s playing close to the line, about nine yards off the ball. The down and distance isn’t shown, but at that depth, he’s playing run. The quarterback goes play action, Hamilton hesitates, and he quickly realizes there is a post behind him and he’s open. He runs to the spot, doesn’t blindly run with his hands in the air like a lot of panicky people do and draw a flag, he waits for the receiver to commit, and goes after the hands. Not only does he break up the pass, but he records a highlight reel interception. Gorgeous play.
Hamilton stands at 6-3, 188 pounds, so you know he can cover some ground. He showed the ability to get off the hash in cover 2 and make a play on the sideline go route, and he showed he can close from the middle of the field on a player breaking away from him. The thing that’s impressive to me is he does all of this while being led by the quarterback. He isn’t eying the receiver, the quarterback is taking him to the ball. In essence he’s running as fast as he needs to make a play, timing his jumps just right. This allows him to high point the ball and make interceptions. Now, the staring down the quarterback thing, this is something he’ll have to learn not to do in college, at least initially. Quarterbacks at the FBS level aren’t going to take him to the ball like high school quarterbacks can. But, what strikes me is his comfort in doing this. He’s in total control on the back end. It may seem like a given, but a lot of high school safeties don’t have that.
One might expect that a tall, lanky player at safety might shy away from contact. Not the case with Hamilton. He comes up from his safety spot, not just with force, but with urgency. He’s the one who wants to get in on the tackle. He’s not one of these, “hey I’ll make the play if everyone else misses” kind of guys. I did notice he goes low a lot, and he’s effective at it, but getting lungy in college can get him into trouble. But, better to have a guy willing who can refine his technique rather than someone who shy’s away from it.
Another thing I liked about him is he’s willing to talk on blockers. A lot of players will try to avoid, and run around blocks. This often does the blockers work for him, the player escapes where the blocker wanted to take him anyway. There are a couple of occasions where Hamilton reads run, destroys the blocker, and wrecks the play entirely.
At some point the rankings have to stop mattering and the eyes can tell the story. And if anyone needed confirmation that something may be amiss with where he is rated, in the month prior to his Notre Dame commitment, he unofficially visited Georgia (his home state school), Ohio State, Michigan, Florida State, and Stanford. All of whom had offered him scholarships. It also happens that Hamilton earned an invite to the The Opening Finals in Oregon this year, so my guess is he won’t be Brian Kelly’s lowest rated recruit much longer.
And nor should he be. He has the physical tools, he has the game, and he has the instincts. And in my opinion, in a class with some very good players, Hamilton just might be the best one.