Four-star DB Houston Griffith sees fit at Notre Dame

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

Houston Griffith had heard plenty about Notre Dame’s new defense.

The four-star defensive back recruit visited the Irish twice in the first few months of defensive coordinator Mike Elko’s tenure in South Bend. All the chalk talk came to life when Griffith attended Saturday’s game against Georgia as part of his Notre Dame official visit.

"When I first met him (in February), he just told me a lot about his defense,” Griffith said of Elko. “He told me it was going to be a really aggressive defense. On Saturday, I was able to see exactly what he was talking about. It made a whole lot of sense because I saw it in person.

“Everything he said actually occurred on the field. They were bringing pressure on the quarterback and making plays in the backfield and on the ball. He's a good coach, and he's going to continue to make that team and that defense a lot better.”

Count the 6-foot, 181-pound Griffith as a believer. He’s seen plenty from the Irish throughout his high school career. He attended a spring practice in 2015 following his freshman season at Chicago’s Mount Carmel High School. He’s returned to campus several times since despite transferring to play at Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy before his junior season. His family still resides in Chicago.

Griffith entered the season — and the last few months of his recruitment — wanting to keep a close eye on how the Irish perform. How they rebound from a 4-8 season is important to him.

“It's important because I want to be part of a program that wins and is able to play with the big boys on the highest level,” Griffith said. “Last year's team was really young, so this year it's nice to see those guys starting to develop and making plays on the field against some of these top opponents.”

Notre Dame’s defense only allowed 20 points and forced two turnovers in the loss to Georgia. Griffith said he’s confident the Irish are on the right path after a 1-1 start.

“I know they had a couple bumps during the game, but they'll just continue to learn from those and continue to rise as a team throughout the season,” he said.

Griffith’s sustained interest in Notre Dame was uncertain until he returned to campus for an official visit. In June, he listed Notre Dame alongside Florida State, Penn State, Texas, Alabama, Nebraska and Ohio State as the top schools in his recruitment. But Griffith hadn’t made a return visit to South Bend since March until this past weekend.

Communication with Elko and defensive backs coach Todd Lyght have kept Griffith’s attention on Notre Dame. Lyght’s résumé as a former cornerback for the Irish and in the NFL means a lot to Griffith. Lyght and Griffith’s father, fullback Howard Griffith, were teammates on the Los Angeles Rams for two seasons in the ‘90s.

“(Lyght) knows what he's talking about,” Houston Griffith said. “I'll be learning from somebody who's been where I want to be, which is playing college football on the highest level and also in the NFL. It wouldn't be bad learning from a guy like him."

Which position Griffith will play in college has become a bit of a debate in the last several months. Griffith had played mostly cornerback throughout his high school career, but he’s been playing more safety at IMG Academy.

Rivals ranks Griffith as the No. 6 safety and the No. 47 overall prospect in the 2018 class. 247Sports slates Griffith as the No. 15 cornerback and No. 129 overall.

Griffith doesn’t have a preference.

“People think I take pride in one position, but really I'm a defensive back at the end of the day. I take pride in being able to ball out on the field and continue to make plays,” Griffith said. “It doesn't really matter to me. I just want to be able to make plays and contribute to the team.”

Notre Dame doesn’t seem to have a preference either. At least that’s the message Griffith received.

"They told me they think I can play all over the field,” Griffith said. “If I do choose Notre Dame, I can make plays and be a day-one contributor to the team and be able to show my talents right away as a freshman. They think I can play all four positions: the safety positions, the corner positions and the nickel position."

The Irish have needs all over the secondary in the recruiting class. Four-star safety Derrik Allen is the only defensive back committed to the 2018 class, and Notre Dame failed to sign any cornerbacks in the 2017 class. Where Griffith would line up at Notre Dame would likely depend on the other recruits who joined him.

The Irish should know where they stand with Griffith in the next month or so. He has an official visit to Florida State scheduled for the Miami game on Oct. 7 and plans on making a commitment “sometime in the next few weeks.”

Griffith doesn’t have any other visits lined up, but he didn’t rule out the possibility of that changing.

"There a few schools that I'd like to see,” Griffith said, “but I'm not going to name them right now."

Regardless, Griffith appears ready to settle on a school. Notre Dame likely won’t host him for another visit before he makes a commitment decision. That’s why his recent official visit was so important.

And what did Griffith learn?

“I learned that if I choose to go there,” he said, “it would be a great fit for me.”

tjames@ndinsider.com

574-235-6214

Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Four-star defensive back Houston Griffith plans to make a commitment decision in the coming months. (Photo courtesy of Rivals)