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Notre Dame Football

Hamilton, Owusu-Koramoah starring for Notre Dame defense

October 13, 2020

The defensive video review was unusually graphic.

Three weeks since it bottled up South Florida in a 52-0 throttling, Notre Dame's defense found itself Saturday night against Florida State on the field too long. The Fighting Irish gave up chunk plays, too many total yards (405) and likewise yielded 26 points – more points than the Irish had allowed combined in their previous three games, including their 2019 season-ending 33-9 win against Iowa State in the Camping World Bowl.

Even amidst some struggles, compounded by a three-week break after Notre Dame shut down its program due to a COVID-19 outbreak and the Seminoles' athleticism, the Fighting Irish continued to see their top two defensive stalwarts shine.

Sophomore safety Kyle Hamilton and senior linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah combined for 13 tackles, two of them for losses, and a pair of quarterback hurries.

It was the first game in four weeks for Hamilton, who suffered an ankle injury in the opening win against Duke.

Brian Kelly pointed to the smile on his face Monday when asked about Hamilton during a Zoom video call with media.

“He's a difference-maker,” Kelly said. “He covers ground like no safety I've ever coached. He plays with physicality. He's smart. He's a terrific football player and his presence is felt out there.

"He closes. He's an eraser, too. You can put him on somebody and just by his size, he makes it difficult for teams to go into his area, whether it's in the run game or pass game.”

It's similar versatility that characterizes Owusu-Koramoah, who according to Kelly is packing closer to 220 pounds on his 6-foot-1.5-inch frame.

“His ability to cover man-to-man,” Kelly said. “Here's a guy from a size standpoint, he's closer to 220 than he is 215 and he can play the slot man-to-man. He can play a skill player man-to-man. That's like having a linebacker out there playing a skilled receiver man-to-man. That's a great tool to have.”

With 17.5 career tackles-for-losses in just 18 games, Owusu-Koramoah also has carved a niche as Notre Dame's Swiss Army Knife. He has emerged as arguably defensive coordinator Clark Lea's top weapon to rush opposing quarterbacks with six career sacks; additionally, Owusu-Koramoah has tallied three forces fumbles and recovered two.

A senior captain, Owusu-Koramoah also has remained a fixture on special teams.

“You don't take (Owusu-Koramoah) off the field,” Kelly said. “He can be a pass rusher for us as well. He's been an effective pass rusher in our dime package. He just gives us a lot of versatility and a guy that can play on all downs for you and do a lot of different things for our football team.

"He's on our kickoff team. We've got him stacked up on our kickoff team and does a lot of different jobs. Very impactful in a sense that I've talked about Hamilton on the back end. He's extremely impactful at that linebacker depth level for us as well.”

Together, the tandem leads Notre Dame with a combined 30 tackles, 22 of them unassisted.

The next step back to normal for the Irish defense is getting a complete performance --- from a group finally reaching complete health and availability.

"I think it's not the kind of defense that Clark has put out there, nor the kind of defense that I want to put out there,” Kelly said. “There are some factors that were unique in that we had a lot of those guys that were not practicing during the week and it showed.

“You've got to practice this game to be at your very best, and so it showed.”

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