Notre Dame’s Kyle Hamilton an example that Georgia doesn’t win every recruiting battle it wants
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Kyle Hamilton serves as proof that Georgia football doesn’t win every recruiting battle
When Notre Dame freshman safety Kyle Hamilton takes the field on Saturday night, he’s going to serve as a reminder that Georgia can and does still miss out on players it very much wants.
Hamilton was a player Georgia very badly wanted in the 2019 signing class and it’s pretty easy to see why. He’s a 6-foot-3 safety with incredible range and movement abilities. He’s was the No. 60 overall prospect in the 2019 recruiting cycle. Not to mention he was an elite student as well, as he attended the Marist School, one of the top private schools in the Atlanta area.
The Bulldogs offered Hamilton just two days after Notre Dame did, but in addition to location, Georgia had some things working its favor. A number of close friends were also 2019 Georgia commits in wide receiver Dominick Blaylock and tight end Ryland Goede. Georgia also signed Hamilton’s teammate — tight end John Fitzpatrick — as a member of the 2018 signing class.
Hamilton attended Georgia’s 2018 G-Day game on April 21 to get another look at that program. Then three days later, he announced he was heading to Notre Dame.
“Just the fit there. When I was on campus If felt different from every place,” Hamilton told DawgNation back in January on why he picked Notre Dame. “Even my first time on campus, the coaching staff, loved them. And then the combination of academics and athletics was just perfect.”
As great as a school as Georgia is, it’ll never be able to offer some of the things a Notre Dame degree can. While Georgia has produced more first-round draft picks in the 21st century than Notre Dame, Hamilton is the kind of guy who thinks about the next 50 years of his life, and not the next 15.
Hamilton never wavered from his commitment status, even as the likes of Blaylock and FitzPatrick tried to convince him that Georgia was the spot.
“I tried to lure him this way, but Kyle had a great school at Notre Dame, great program, great tradition, so he couldn’t pass that one up,” FitzPatrick said.
The safety prospect was the highest-rated player to sign in Notre Dame’s 2019 class. But given that Notre Dame returned both of its starting safeties from a season ago and Hamilton was not an early enrollee, it wasn’t a sure thing that he’d be in a position to play a key role in the Georgia-Notre Dame game.
However, Hamilton proved pretty early on that he was going to be too good to be kept off the field.
“How does a young player fight through that inevitable wall that you’re going to hit,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said in August. “And that’s the first thing that impressed me. He fought through it. That was impressive for a freshman. He’s got some toughness you don’t teach at that young of an age.
“His size 6’3, 6’4 very unique to have the suddenness and change of direction, which offers him incredible range and length as a pass defender. Can’t say I’ve seen a player that can change direction and carry himself with that kind of range on the backend.”
Notre Dame ended up putting Hamilton as their nickel corner — think STAR in the Georgia defense. And it hasn’t taken long for him to make an impact. He’s racked up 5 tackles, 2 pass break-ups and a pick-6 in Notre Dame’s first two games of the season.
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“He’s done a really nice job for us, especially in the passing situation. He’s around the football. He has a nose for the ball,” Kelly said. “He’s made a big impact as a true freshman, which doesn’t happen very often.”
Given that Notre Dame has to recruit nationally to try and keep up with the national elite, landing a player of Hamilton’s caliber actually represented a more significant win for the Fighting Irish than it did a loss for Georgia.
“We’ve got to battle all over the country, whether it’s Georgia or USC on the West Coast, Penn State or Pittsburgh in the East, down in Florida against Miami and Florida,” Kelly said. “It’s just the nature of it that we have to go into geographical areas and recruit the players against the top teams in those areas. We have to be able to talk about our distinctions.”
That’s something Georgia is going to do more and more going into the future, as the Bulldogs continue to recruit nationally. In Georgia’s 2020 recruiting class — ranked No. 6 in the country — only four of the 16 commitments have come from the state of Georgia.
And while the Bulldogs missed out on Hamilton, they did land Lewis Cine in the 2019 class out of Texas. Cine was actually a higher rated prospect and he snared his first career interception this past Saturday as well. Safe to the Bulldogs rebounded pretty well after missing out on the in-state product.
Hamilton will likely find himself matched up against another elite freshman in Blaylock. In his last two games, Blaylock has 7 catches for 160 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns. In the Georgia win over Arkansas State, Blaylock became the first Georgia receiver to top 100 yards in a game since Isaiah McKenzie did it back in 2016.
And given Hamilton’s size, he could also find himself matched up on FitzPatrick, much like they did back in their high school days at Marist. Notre Dame also recruited FitzPatrick as well but that actually ended up being a recruiting battle the Bulldogs ended up winning.
When DawgNation caught up with Hamilton back in January, he said he was expecting a crazy atmosphere for Saturday’s game, given Georgia’s rabid fan base. Months out from the game, he tried to downplay its importance but it’ll be a big game for the freshman given that he’s going to be playing in front of so many friends and family members.
As Hamilton prepares to play in his home state on Saturday, Hamilton has reached out and chatted with some of his friends and teammates like Blaylock and FitzPatrick. And he’s not coming into Sanford Stadium to get blown out.
“I talked to him today. Just joking around back and forth, but, nothing too serious,” FitzPatrick said. “He says he’s going to come take me out and I’ll say the same thing back to him.”
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