Brian Kelly spoke with the media on Thursday afternoon as the Notre Dame Fighting Irish prepare to go on the road to face the Virginia Cavaliers in Charlottesville. There was one massive question that still hung up in the air, and that was about the status of safety Kyle Hamilton.
Kelly wasted no time in talking about what’s happening with his star defensive player, and the coach was emphatic with its meaning.
“Kyle Hamilton is not ready to play. Let me just be really clear on this because I think there’s a bunch of narratives out there about Kyle. Kyle is not cleared medically to play. Once he’s cleared medically to play, he has every intention of playing. He just hasn’t been cleared yet. So, once our doctors give him the the clearance — he’s done everything that we’ve asked him to do. I just want to make sure it’s clear that this isn’t a young man that doesn’t want to play or that he’s protecting himself for the NFL Draft or a bunch of that stuff. Here’s a guy that’s in the weight room, he’s doing all the things that an engaged captain of our football team would do, but he’s just not cleared right now. He’s dealing with an injury that takes time and it’s taken more time. Like I said, when our medical people clear him, he’ll be back. That just hasn’t been the case. So, I just wanted to be really clear as to what his situation is, so we don’t have false narratives out there about what his intention is. He’s been a great teammate and a great captain. We’re really pleased with his engagement and everything that he’s doing. I hope that’s crystal clear to everybody, so we can move forward there.”
There was still no time table given about a possible return, and I think the language used here is still pretty important. Kelly could just be trying to protect one of his players from overzealous fans and media members — or perhaps it’s completely sincere.
Regardless of what does or doesn’t happen over the next few weeks, this entire thing will be overanalyzed to death.
Speaking of injuries... the season ending injury to wide receiver Avery Davis has made an already bright spotlight brighter on the Irish depth chart. Freshman Lorenzo Styles has made a big impact for the Irish during this second part of the season, which flies in the face of the normal narrative that’s out there about Notre Dame and freshmen playing time. Brian Kelly wants to squash that narrative.
“Yeah, it’s not the playbook. It’s certainly not the playbook. It’s all the demands that are placed on them on a day to day basis in the classroom, and then to compete here, obviously on a day to day basis, the standards that they have to, to go by. Look, we haven’t reinvented anything here that that makes it more complicated from that standpoint or we’re not doing our job. We’ve got to get the players ready to play if they’re capable of handling it. That narrative is tired a bit in recruiting and if you’re using that as your crutch to recruit against us, you haven’t dug deep enough to find out that if you’re mentally ready and you’re disciplined and you’re organized and you’ve got the talent, we’re going to play you as a freshman. I think the biggest challenge, to underline it, would be the balancing of the academic work. Look, when they sit in the classroom, it’s all five-star academicians. Those kids are all five stars and then when they come over here, they’re being challenged by the best football players too. So, they’ve got a lot on their plate the entire day. Those that are able to handle both ends of that are generally the ones that are able to play early.”
While Styles moves into the number one spot at the slot, fellow freshman Deion Colzie will see meaningful time at receiver, and running back Logan Diggs will likely continue to be in the rotation — especially with C’Bo Flemister out this week after being banged up in practice and, “not able to answer the bell” according to Kelly.
And oh yeah... freshman Joe Alt continues to be the starter at left tackle.
Besides the names mentioned there are a handful of other freshmen that have made an impact on the field this season, so BK really wants to smash that narrative — especially while inserting freshman quarterback Tyler Buchner into key situations.
You can watch the full presser below which includes BK talking about Drew White, Virginia’s quarterback situation with Brennan Armstrong, and more.