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Notre Dame Football

Kelly expects Brown to step up in Hamilton's absence, praises freshmen WRs

October 25, 2021

Notre Dame will face perhaps its most explosive offense this season without its star defensive player.

Kyle Hamilton, the No. 11 Fighting Irish's All-American safety and projected 2022 top-10 NFL Draft pick, is going to miss Saturday night's showdown against high-flying North Carolina due to the knee injury Hamilton incurred during last weekend's win against University of Southern California.

Though ND coach Brian Kelly on Saturday night had expressed optimism that Hamilton might not miss any additional time, on Monday he revealed that Hamilton is undergoing additional testing and is out for at least the upcoming game.

“Hamilton will be out this week,” Kelly said. “He'll get further testing and see where he is later this week. We don't think it's a long-term situation. He's out this week.”

Later, though a bit murky, Kelly revealed that Hamilton is receiving additional testing this week – not specifying what type – and also that multiple voices have a say in Hamilton's potential return this season.

“It's a knee,” said Kelly, who had initially termed the injury a pinched “fat-pad.” “I don't want to get into the specifics. I can tell you there's some confidence here that we're going to have him back. Our medical people have done their due diligence; we'll make sure that we give everybody a chance to weigh in on this matter. There will be some further evaluations during the week.

“We'll do what's right and there will be collaboration with everybody that's involved.”

Hamilton already has appeared in 31 games in his Notre Dame career, having amassed 139 tackles and broken up 24 passes. He's got eight career interceptions.

In Hamilton's place, DJ Brown slides into the starting spot. A redshirt-junior, Brown owns appearances in 28 career games with his first career interception coming earlier this season in the Irish's win against Purdue.

“I think he's worked on his weaknesses,” Kelly said of Brown's continued growth as a consistent contributor. “I think that part of this is understanding what are the areas you have to work on. His first area was he needed to be a great tackler.

“He's really now a solid tackler, whether it's on kickoff team or getting the ball down on the ground. I think he's really done a great job of shoring up that part of his game.”

Missing only the Toledo game this season, Brown's added 24 tackles and a pair of passes defended in his six games in 2021.

Kelly also indicated the Irish are likely to slide Isaiah Pryor back a level from his work as a Rover to his more traditional safety position.


Chris Tyree is likely to again be a game-time decision as the second-year running back deals with a toe injury while Zeke Correll is trying to work his way out of concussion protocol. Correll's status hinges solely on his work in clearing those guidelines this week.

Andrew Kristofic remains the Irish's starting left guard, and Kelly is pleased with the continuity Kristofic and Joe Alt are bringing to the left flank of the Notre Dame offensive line.

In fact, Kelly makes clear he believes Notre Dame is settled into a standing five along the front: Alt, Kristofic, Jarrett Patterson, Cain Madden and Josh Lugg.

“I just think that there's less of a burden on the center,” Kelly said of the Alt-Kristofic combo, having emphasized the two also lend a greater stature and physical presence. “I think the center feels like, J-Patt is just playing freer. I think there's a feeling the five work well together. Better communication.

“I think Alt is a guy that really communicates well and that passes on down the line. I just think it's not just one guy, I think they all just work well together.”

Alex Ehrensberger is recovering from back spasms, Kelly said, and his status remains unclear this week against the Tar Heels (4-3), who are coming off an open date and scoring 37 points per game while allowing 29 ppg.


Audric Estime made a cameo as an H-back in one of the Irish's goal-line sets against USC, and he's going to continue in that role moving forward this season, per Kelly.

But Kelly also is quick to praise Estime's feet, speed and vision; he noted that Estime isn't just a “bowling ball back there.”

Additionally, Kelly said that wideouts Lorenzo Styles Jr. and Deion Colzie are beyond the point are merely providing breathers for the Irish's other wideouts, saying that the coaches are going to continue to implement the duo into the offense as they continue to make plays and showcase their skills.
Colzie is coming off a USC performance in which his third-down catch was one of the key second-half moments for Notre Dame; Styles is coming off a three-catch, 57-yard performance in which his elite speed repeatedly showed up on the perimeter.

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