Notre Dame working to convince safety Houston Griffith to stay with program

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

Marcus Freeman has followed two Notre Dame football players on Twitter since being named the program’s new defensive coordinator: safeties Kyle Hamilton and Houston Griffith.

Freeman has apparently been working to convince the latter to stay at Notre Dame for a chance to play alongside the former. Griffith entered the NCAA’s transfer portal earlier this month, which allowed other programs to actively recruit him as a potential transfer.

A source told the Tribune that Freeman and Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly have been in contact with Griffith in an effort to convince him to stick with the Irish. Players are allowed to remove themselves from the transfer portal without transferring, but the original school does not have to allow that player to remain on scholarship with its program.

Griffith’s opportunity at Notre Dame remains clear. He could potentially start alongside Hamilton despite being beat out by sixth-year former cornerback Shaun Crawford at the strong safety position last season.

Griffith, a former four-star recruit, would be offered a bit of a clean slate at Notre Dame with a new defensive coordinator and a new safeties coach, who has yet to be named. Defensive backs coach Terry Joseph, who oversaw the safety position at Notre Dame the past three seasons, left the Irish earlier this month for a similar job at Texas, a source previously confirmed with the Tribune.

The interest in Griffith from other programs appears to be widespread. The list of recent followers of Griffith’s Twitter account include staffers from Florida State, Georgia, Oklahoma, Oregon, Nebraska, Illinois, Missouri, Syracuse, Kansas State and more.

Griffith’s father, Howard, played running back at Illinois from 1987-91 and works as an analyst for the Big Ten Network out of Chicago. Houston Griffith was briefly committed to Florida State during his senior year at Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy before signing with Notre Dame.

A source told the Tribune that Griffith hopes to make a decision on his future by the end of the month. Regardless of Griffith’s decision to transfer or stay, the source said, he plans to remain enrolled at Notre Dame for the spring semester in order to graduate in May. Classes are scheduled to resume on Feb. 3.

The 6-foot, 204-pound Griffith wasn’t able to secure a full-time starting position in his first three seasons at Notre Dame after being ranked as ND’s top signee by Rivals in the 2018 class. Rivals pegged him as the No. 43 overall recruit in the country and the No. 4 safety. 247Sports slated him as the No. 14 cornerback and No. 148 overall.

Griffith’s most prominent game-day role came as a nickelback in his freshman season. He played in 11 games and started one while totaling 14 tackles and two pass breakups.

Griffith played primarily on special teams as a sophomore, recording five tackles and one pass breakup, and switched positions from cornerback to safety in the middle of the season.

Last season, Griffith started two games — against South Florida when Hamilton was injured and against Florida State when Crawford started at cornerback — and played in all 12. He tallied 14 tackles and one tackle for a loss.

Without Griffith, the Irish could ask senior-to-be DJ Brown to move to strong safety after backing up Hamilton last season and playing as a third safety in certain situations. Juniors KJ Wallace and Litchfield Ajavon and incoming freshmen Khari Gee and Justin Walters are the only other scholarship safeties projected on Notre Dame’s roster next season.

Since safety Houston Griffith entered the transfer portal earlier this month, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly and new defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman have been working to convince Griffith to say at Notre Dame, a source told the Tribune.