Blue and Gold Illustrated

January 2018

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

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42 JANUARY 2018 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY DAVID MCKINNEY The recruitment of Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy defensive back Houston Griffith has seen its share of twists and turns, but it finally ended positively for Notre Dame Dec. 12 when the one-time Florida State pledge announced for the Irish. With the commitment, Griffith — a Nike Football The Opening Finalist — immediately became the highest- rated Irish commit by Rivals, check- ing in as the No. 3 safety and No. 35 overall player in the nation. Offered by Notre Dame prior to his sophomore year at Chicago Mt. Car- mel, the 6-1, 192-pound Griffith was long thought to be an Irish lean, but a 4-8 record and poor defensive play in 2016 led him to look elsewhere. Then defensive coordinator Mike Elko was hired after the 2016 season, and everything changed. "When I went up there for the Stanford game it seemed like they weren't that physical on the defen- sive side," Griffith said of Notre Dame's 17-10 loss to the Cardinal on Oct. 15, 2016. "When Coach Elko got hired, I went to spring practice. We went over the scheme, and he was telling me Notre Dame is going back to the basics and talked about being physical." Any lingering doubts about Elko's ability to turn the defense around vanished after Notre Dame shut down Temple in the season opener. Griffith then decided he wanted to see Notre Dame again up close. He headed to South Bend for an official visit Sept. 9 to see Notre Dame take on Georgia. "When I went to watch them play Georgia, I thought they were going to lose badly," Griffith stated. "A one- point loss to a College Football Play- off team, that was exciting." That sold Griffith on Elko, which put Notre Dame back in the mix. "I know he's going to get them bet- ter," Griffith said. "With what he's done at Bowling Green and Wake Forest, making them one of the top defenses, and the players he's got at Notre Dame, he can get them to be one of the best defenses in the country." That said, Griffith took an official visit to Florida State a month later and committed to the Seminoles shortly after. Griffith was committed to the Sem- inoles for less than two months be- fore backing off the pledge, and the Irish were clearly on his mind. From there, Notre Dame was al- ways going to be his choice. The tradition of excellence on and off the field in South Bend was just too much for Griffith to pass up. "Tradition. People talk about that gold helmet — everybody knows about that," Griffith said of his rea- sons for picking Notre Dame. "Ev- erybody knows about Touchdown Jesus and the Play Like A Champion sign. Just the education you get. "I know that the people that go there are going to be going there with fathers who own businesses. The net- working is a big thing for me." Griffith knows his time spent in South Bend will benefit him far be- yond his playing career. "It's not a four-year decision, it's a 40-year decision," Griffith contin- ued. "That's what is really intriguing about Notre Dame." With Griffith in the fold, Notre Dame now has a pair of Rivals100 safeties for the first time since head coach Brian Kelly arrived, joining Marietta (Ga.) Lassiter standout Der- rik Allen. Griffith is the fifth Rivals100 player to pledge to the Irish, and one of seven The Opening finalists in the class, including Allen, four-star line- backer Jack Lamb, four-star rover Shayne Simon, four-star defensive tackle Jayson Ademilola, three-star linebacker Ovie Oghoufo and three- star defensive tackle Ja'Mion Frank- lin. Griffith participated in the Rivals Three-Stripe Camp in St. Louis and was named a top defensive per- former. ✦ FILM ANALYSIS Strengths Houston Griffith is a versatile player that could be a starter at cornerback or safety … His best projec- tion is at safety, where his combination of size, skill and instincts makes him a legit top-50 player in the country … A willing tackler that can wrap up in space and also deliver big hits on receivers … Quality athlete that possesses good change of direction ability and is light on his feet … Shows excellent range in coverage as a safety … Smart, heady football player. Areas For Improvement Has played safety for just one season, so there are some minor areas where he will need to continue gaining more experience, with proper angles in coverage being at the top of the list … Still has room to reshape his body and continue adding strength, which will help him on the back end. — Bryan Driskell COMMITMENT PROFILE HOUSTON GRIFFITH Elite Defensive Back Sees Opportunity In South Bend Griffith, the No. 35 overall player in the nation according to Rivals, is now the highest-rated commit in Notre Dame's class. PHOTO COURTESY RIVALS.COM "It's not a four-year decision, it's a 40-year decision. That's what is really intriguing about Notre Dame." GRIFFITH

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