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Notre Dame Football

Notre Dame Fall Camp Preview | Safety

July 22, 2022

It doesn’t suck to be Chris O’Leary.

Before he was promoted to coach safeties, he coached the Rover position and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. When he moved to his current role, he inherited Kyle Hamilton. Hamilton leaves for the NFL and an impact transfer steps in to take his place in Brandon Joseph.

Joseph lived up to the hype this spring. He was a ballhawk at Northwestern and continued to be the same in practice at Notre Dame. The questions that lingered about him had to do with tackling because he struggled a bit in that department in 2021, but that did not seem to be an issue for him.

Expectations are high for Joseph and he should have a strong camp leading into the season.

What will they do at the other safety spot? They certainly have options. They also have experience there with DJ Brown and Houston Griffith returning.

Brown is someone who has missed some key tackles in spots and he’s not an elite athlete, but he finds the football and has good timing as a blitzer. Playing with Joseph might allow Brown to be more involved in the box than he was previously and that’s something that I think could be beneficial for him.

It’s been the same thing with Griffith for a long time. He’s a solid player in most areas. He tackles well and brings that physical part of the game that is needed at the position. It comes down to him not being able to make plays on the ball in coverage. That’s just never happened for him in games or practices. Unless that changes, it’s difficult to see him earning a starting role.

He needs to have a great camp.

Ramon Henderson played a lot at safety after Hamilton went down for the season. The former corner made one of the best defensive plays all season with his diving interception against Virginia and he’s maybe the most intriguing possibility to pair with Joseph because Henderson can cover man to man better than Brown or Griffith.

If Henderson earns the job this camp, that would be great news regarding his development and great news for the defense.

A player I wish I saw a bit more of this spring was Xavier Watts. He shows up in a big way as a tackler on the perimeter. Some guys just have “it” when it comes to attacking downhill and taking aggressive angles. He falls in that category.

It’s the coverage piece that we still don’t know enough about yet. He had a few rough plays last season, but that’s to be expected for someone who converted from receiver to safety during the season. Now that he has a full spring under his belt, is he ready to make a leap this August?

Justin Walters is a bit of a forgotten man at the position with no one considering him to be in the mix to be a starter, but he shows up enough with some plays to make sure everyone is aware that he is there. He’ll have to make a splash to crack the two-deep and jump the line over players with more experience.

There are four guys who played last year for Notre Dame plus Joseph, so there likely won’t be a ton of reps to go around for any other players who may move to safety. Even with that, there has to be some thought about moving someone to jump start their long term development.

The Irish didn’t take a true safety in the 2022 recruiting class and they may lose three players for next year. It’s a fair assumption that even if we don’t see someone move to safety during camp, they may start practicing there during the season. Black Notre Dame Executive Backpack

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