Notre Dame Football Safety Kyle Hamilton Named One Of Pro Football Focus’ 10 Best Returning Defensive Backs For 2021
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Kyle Hamilton Recognized As One Of PFF’s 10 Best Returning Defensive Backs

Any discussion of Notre Dame’s most valuable defensive asset on the 2021 roster starts with safety Kyle Hamilton, according to Pro Football Focus’ position-by-position rankings of college football’s top returning players.

Hamilton, a junior-to-be, was ranked as PFF’s sixth-best returning defensive back in its top 10, released Tuesday. He’s the only Notre Dame player in the top 10 on PFF’s list of top returners, which have also covered quarterbacks, running backs, offensive line and defensive line.

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Notre Dame Fighting Irish football sophomore safety Kyle Hamilton
Hamilton had a team-high 63 tackles for Notre Dame last season. (Notre Dame Athletics)

“His 42-inch vertical may have helped land him on Bruce Feldman’s 2020 Freaks List, but he also pairs his physical skill set with great eyes in coverage, making him a certified playmaker,” PFF’s Anthony Treash wrote.

“Hamilton has compiled 16 combined pass breakups and interceptions and 15 passing stops as a true freshman and sophomore. Better yet, he was responsible for only three explosive pass plays of 15-plus yards over that span. The Notre Dame safety has generated the third-most WAA (Wins Above Average) among players at his position over the last two years, and the two above him are likely to be taken within the first 50 picks of the 2021 NFL Draft.”

By PFF’s metrics or just about any other, Hamilton put forth a sophomore year that further established his status as one of college football’s best safeties. He had a team-high 63 tackles to go with 4.5 tackles for loss, six pass breakups and an interception.

PFF, meanwhile gave him a 78.6 overall grade, third on his team behind linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and defensive end Daelin Hayes. His 81.1 coverage grade was second behind Owusu-Koramoah, a projected first-round pick.

The 6-4, 221-pound Hamilton allowed 18 catches on 31 passes thrown at him, a 58.1 catch rate. Opposing receivers averaged 7.7 yards per catch, with a long of 21 yards. Quarterbacks had a 55.6 passer rating when targeting him, and he did not allow a touchdown.

Hamilton was a first-team All-ACC selection and an FWAA first-team All-America pick. He earned All-American honors from three other major outlets: AFCA (second team), Walter Camp (second team) and the Associated Press (third team).

On PFF’s list of top returning defensive backs, Hamilton is behind LSU cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. (No. 1), Cincinnati corner Ahmad Gardner, LSU corner Eli Ricks, TCU corner Trevon Hodges-Tomlinson and West Virginia safety Tykee Smith.

Alabama corner Josh Jobe, Florida corner Kaiir Elam, Washington corner Trent McDuffie and Northwestern safety Brandon Joseph round out the top 10.

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