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Notre Dame Football: How safe is the position of safety for the Irish?

Brian Kelly and Notre Dame look toward the future without Kyle Hamilton

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 11 Toledo at Notre Dame Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Notre Dame Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly addressed the media on Monday to talk about his roster and the upcoming game against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.


Kelly, per usual, was highly complimentary of Notre Dame’s next opponent — in particular with running back Jahmyr Gibbs and quarterback Jeff Sims.

“On to Georgia Tech and if you you look at their record, you just kind of scratch your head. We looked at it and I think there were six times in their seven losses where they had an opportunity to go ahead in the last possession. So again, a talented football team and certainly one where a number of their games could have gone the other way. Look, in college football today, you’re talking about a possession of two and in this football team, as I mentioned, six possessions where they could have changed the game. I think they have the Player of the Year in the ACC in Jahmyr Gibbs. To me, he’s a breakout player. Kickoff return for a touchdown last week. Out of the backfield, I think he’s had 200 yards in total offense in a number of consecutive games. He’s a weapon, outstanding player. Certainly Jeff Sims is a dynamic quarterback. Did not play last week, but his replacement is pretty darn good as well when Jordan goes in there. This is a football team that has really good football players on both sides of the ball. I know the record doesn’t indicate it. But I think you look at the scores of the games they played, they really handled North Carolina earlier in the season. They’ve lost some games here. But this is a classic team that if you do not pay them the due respect and you do not play well against them, they will beat you. They get your attention. When I watch them play, there are good players on both sides of the ball. As I mentioned with with the Gibbs kid, I think he’s the Player of the Year in the ACC, in my estimation, in terms of his talent and what he does to impact the football game. So with that, you’re getting a really, really dangerous football team and one that has finished their schedule in the ACC and now plays Notre Dame and Georgia and back to back week. In terms of their motivation, these are their bowl games in back to back weeks. So as you can see, as a head coach, these are the games that you feel a little bit uneasy about because your opponent has nothing really to worry about going into the game other than just taking a free swing and playing without anything to worry about in the sense that one at a time, Notre Dame and Georgia, and get after it. We have to play well.”


One of the main storylines over the last few weeks has been the Kyle Hamilton injury, his possible return, and how the Irish make up for his loss on the field. We finally got a little bit of clarity from Kelly about Hamilton’s situation — just as we got a little bit of clarity on Saturday night about the position hr left behind.

“The injury itself is generally a six week injury, so there was some meniscus involvement. But that is no longer an issue. There’s no meniscus at all. He’s got a great meniscus, but this is much more about the healing around the knee itself and there’s no structural damage at all. But it generally takes about six weeks. We’re dealing with with an injury that usually takes about six weeks. It’s the tissue. I’m not a doctor, so I don’t want to give too much information here. There’s tissue and fibers that kind of connect the tissue and fiber around the joint and then in the knee and they get pinched or pulled and that’s the issue that that has to heal. So, it just takes some time… “Well, six weeks would take him through the end of the regular season and then we have to see where we are with college football playoffs, bowl games, things like that.”

Barring a playoff appearance, we have already seen the last of Kyle Hamilton in a Notre Dame uniform. The “next man up” has been a large combination of “next men up” as the Irish try to figure out how best to field their secondary. Safeties coach Chris O’Leary is obviously the man in charge of that task.

“Coach O’Leary’s done a great job. The development there and those players. It takes time to get those guys ready. It’s not like you can just roll them out there. He’s done a really good job with those guys across the board. But it’s a team approach there. Kerry Cooks is back there. He’s obviously a veteran leader there to help him. Mike Mickens pitches in back there as well. There’s a collaborative approach of a number of guys working together back there, but certainly coach O’Leary gets a lot of the credit there.”

While not listed on the depth chart as safeties, Ramon Henderson and Xavier Watts looked good against Virginia and have developed into real options for the Irish this year and beyond.

“Certainly Ramon Henderson would be in that category, as well as Xavier Watts. They were good players, but they just needed more time. I think the depth of our football team is certainly called upon later in the season and they have to come through for us and we saw that last night.”

“He’s [Henderson] been playing safety and nickel. That’s really been where we felt like his impact would be and it’ll continue to be there. I think his length and range really stood out for us as a safety, in terms of what we were looking for. So as we played him more at the nickel position, those things kind of stood out to us. Then when we got him in the game, it became pretty apparent that safety was was a comfortable position for him.”

“He’s [Watts] coming along. I think we just continue to impress upon some of the fundamentals with him. We just think that the next stage of development for him being a little bit more aggressive and tackling and he just has so much to offer. We just think there’s another stage of development and he’s getting there. He’s going to be a good player for us.”


Brian Kelly’s full presser can be watched in the video below. He touches on:

  • Rylie Mills.
  • Prince Kollie.
  • Going for it on 4th down.
  • The flu bug.
  • Transfer Portal.

And more.