Blue and Gold Illustrated

February 2021

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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20 FEBRUARY 2021 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY LOU SOMOGYI F or at least a century, Major League Baseball has had the hot-stove league. It refers to the vast player transactions during the offseason from November until the start of spring training. With the recent addition of the NCAA transfer portal and broad sup- port for a one-time transfer exemption that makes student-athletes immedi- ately available without having to sit out a year, collegiate athletics have be- come a hot-stove league of their own. Since the loss to No. 1 Alabama in the College Football Playoff Jan. 1, seven Notre Dame players entered their names into the portal, with ju- nior safety Houston Griffith (Jan. 4), junior defensive end Ovie Oghoufo (Jan. 5) and junior linebacker Jack Lamb (Jan. 5) the most recent. Previously there were senior re- ceiver Jafar Armstrong, senior cen- ter Colin Grunhard, junior running back Jahmir Smith and sophomore cornerback Isaiah Rutherford. Grun- hard has since announced he will be attending Kansas, while Rutherford plans to enroll at Arizona. Even prior to the CFP, two other for- mer Irish defensive linemen had opted to transfer elsewhere: senior end Kofi Wardlow (Charlotte) and junior nose tackle Ja'Mion Franklin (Duke). A common thread with these de- partures is younger players moving ahead of them on the two-deep. There- fore, a better opportunity for playing time might be found elsewhere, espe- cially after, in most cases, receiving an undergraduate degree at Notre Dame. The top-rated prospect in Notre Dame's 2018 recruiting class, Griffith (No. 43 nationally by Rivals) had an enigmatic first three seasons. He played regularly as the nickel his fresh- man season before getting replaced by veteran Nick Coleman. In 2019 the staff pegged him to succeed consensus All-American Julian Love at boundary corner, but it didn't work out and he was shifted to safety that fall. With the graduation of Alohi Gilman after the 2019 season, the starting role was there for the tak- ing in 2020 for Griffith, but instead sixth-year senior cornerback Shaun Crawford was relocated there as the best option. Griffith's classmate, DJ Brown, also finished with more snaps this season on defense, 242 to 215, per Pro Football Focus. However, Blue & Gold Illustrated's Patrick Engel has learned that with a new defensive coordinator in Marcus Freeman and a new safeties coach to be determined, Notre Dame is re- cruiting Griffith to return in 2021. With the 6-3, 240-pound Oghoufo, he saw action in 11 games this past year at vyper end that is graduating fifth-year senior captain Daelin Hayes. Overall, Oghoufo played 149 snaps and was credited with 10 tackles, 1.5 sacks and two passes defended. However, the heir at vyper is likely to be 6-5, 257-pound sophomore Isaiah Foskey, whose impact, especially as a pass rusher, was conspicuous through- out the year and whose ceiling as a future NFL prospect is the highest. Meanwhile, 6-2½, 248-pound and ultra-physical sophomore Jordan Botelho also could be in line for more action next season at vyper. A four- star recruit ranked 176th nationally in 2020 by Rivals, Botelho played only 18 snaps on defense but was a regular on kickoff coverage and punt return, scoring a touchdown versus South Florida on a blocked punt. Minus Oghoufo, there is less mar- gin for error at the position than in recent seasons because other than Foskey, there are fewer proven com- modities. Notre Dame reportedly has expressed interest in Illinois second- team All-Big Ten end Owen Carney. Lamb was effective in 2019 sub packages, but a severe hip injury that Nov. 2 sidelined him and put him well behind in 2020, when he had only 37 snaps. Like his classmates, he plans to be a 2021 graduate transfer. ✦ College Free AgenCy Houston Griffith, Ovie Oghoufo and Jack Lamb are the most recent Fighting Irish players to enter their names into the transfer portal since the end of the season Griffith (No. 43 nationally by Rivals) was the top- rated recruit in Notre Dame's 2018 recruiting class. PHOTO BY MIKE MILLER TERRY JOSEPH HIRED BY TEXAS Movement on the Notre Dame football team this January was not limited to just the players. On Jan. 8, safeties/pass defense coordinator Terry Joseph joined the staff at the University of Texas as- sembled by new Longhorns head coach Steve Sarkisian. A Louisiana native, the 47-year-old Joseph was hired in 2018 by Brian Kelly to coach the safeties, and in 2019 he was promoted to the role of defensive pass game coordinator to assist defensive coordinator Clark Lea, who this December was hired as the head coach at his alma mater, Vanderbilt. Joseph was considered a candidate to succeed Lea at Notre Dame, but Cincinnati defensive coordinator Marcus Freemen was hired instead. Joseph had been instrumental in the recruit- ment of sophomore All-American Kyle Hamil- ton and also 2020 North Carolina State gradu- ate transfer cornerback Nick McCloud. Previous Power Five stints for Joseph had included Ten- nessee (2010-11), Nebraska (2012-13), Texas A&M (2014-16) and North Carolina (2017). — Lou Somogyi

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