Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 3 Houston Griffith, sophomore cornerback

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Listed Measurements: 5-foot-11 ¾, 205 pounds.
2019-20 year, eligibility: A sophomore, Griffith has three seasons of eligibility remaining, including 2019.
Depth chart: Griffith will have every chance to earn a starting role throughout the preseason. If he does, it will likely be as the boundary cornerback, allowing senior Troy Pride to remain on the wide side, as he was the last two years. But Griffith may not prove himself, relegating him to the second-string or perhaps back to nickel back, where he had mixed results as a freshman.
Recruiting: Chased as a safety, the Under Armour All-American originally committed to Florida State, reconsidering his choice as the Seminoles stumbled to 7-6 while the Irish went 9-3 in the regular season. rated Griffith the No. 4 safety and No. 43 overall player in the class of 2018.

Griffith may have been recruited as a safety, but Notre Dame had thoughts of moving him to cornerback from the outset. He bounced around the defensive backfield, both in spring practice as an early enrollee and in the preseason, before landing at nickel back for his freshman year. When Shaun Crawford tore his ACL days before the season opener, it cemented Griffith’s debut role. He played well on the whole, sometimes making clear freshman mistakes, others handling his role as needed.

2018: 11 games, one start; 14 tackles with two pass breakups.

The internal downside to making much of spring practice available for media viewing is the Irish coaching staff then cannot quite sugarcoat some of March and April’s shortcomings. At the end of spring practices, defensive coordinator Clark Lea plainly acknowledged Griffith has work to do.

“For me to yell at Houston for a deep ball is like me being a fan,” Lea said. “I need to give him the information he can use. As coaches, we have to give him information he can use to learn and develop.

“From a strength and power and speed standpoint, [Griffith] has it. Certain things, certain techniques we’re deploying for him, he does really well. He’s a great tackler. He has had some forced positions on tight end surfaces where he has looked really clean and as good as we’ve had. For him, it’s getting comfortable in the techniques and the repetition at some of the things that are a little more challenging for him, but the potential is there.”

“Griffith played well enough in spring practice, along with (Alohi) Gilman and (Jalen) Elliott, to lead to returning starter senior Nick Coleman to spend some time at nickelback. That was not nailed down as a permanent move, but the mere option indicates Coleman’s role at safety has been diminished. That could point to Griffith soon becoming the third safety in the rotation, nudging ahead of junior Devin Studstill. In such a situation, Griffith would likely finish the season with about two dozen tackles.

“The more telling statistic will be how many passes Griffith gets his hands on. Last year’s top-three safeties totaled a whopping five pass breakups. (Note: Heavy sarcasm on whopping.) Griffith might not match that on his own, but knocking down two or three passes would confirm (safeties coach Terry) Joseph’s description of the freshman’s coverage abilities.”

Notre Dame senior walk-on receiver Aaron Shinaver beating sophomore cornerback Houston Griffith in the Blue-Gold Game was not a rare occurrence for Griffith in the spring as he adjusted to a new position. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Another Lea quote stood out when he was discussing Griffith: “Sometimes as a corner, those (finer points) are learned by the ball going over your head.”

Griffith gave up deep balls to senior receiver Chase Claypool, but those could be explained away by Claypool’s talent and experience. The ones Griffith gave up to other receivers, including his own classmates, were less readily dismissed. Claypool was not simply out-dueling Griffith; a few receivers were, including some not pushing for playing time.

But that is part of spring practice. Learn the lessons then, instead of when it counts. If Griffith indeed learned, Notre Dame would like to start him on the boundary opposite Pride.

Griffith has the raw skills for the position, but a small mistake can prove the most costly when in one-on-one coverage. If those missteps are still prevalent in the preseason, then the Irish may yet move Pride to the boundary and rely on sophomore TaRiq Bracy or fifth-year Shaun Crawford or even senior Donte Vaghn along the field. Vaughn could also surpass Griffith along the boundary, but he would have to showcase sustained health in doing so.

All this is to say it is appropriate for Griffith to come so close to the end of this series, as his work this preseason will be some of the most-scrutinized.

Whatever success Griffith does or does not have this year, he will have a ripe opportunity again in 2020. Pride and Vaughn will be out of eligibility, and Crawford may or may not be granted a sixth year (and could choose to use such elsewhere).

Notre Dame will need to replenish its cornerback ranks, and the recruiting at the position has remained underwhelming, although its existence in any form is an improvement upon the class of 2017 which lacked cornerbacks outright.

NOTRE DAME 99-to-2:
No. 95: Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, defensive tackle
No. 94: Isaiah Foskey, freshman defensive end, consensus four-star
No. 94: Darnell Ewell, defensive tackle
No. 91: Ade Ogundeji, defensive end
No. 90: Hunter Spears, defensive tackle, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 89: Brock Wright, tight end
No. 88: Javon McKinley, receiver
No. 87: Michael Young, receiver
No. 85: George Takacs, tight end
No. 84: Cole Kmet, tight end
No. 83: Chase Claypool, receiver
No. 80: Micah Jones, receiver
No. 78: Tommy Kraemer, right guard, three-year starter
No. 77: Quinn Carroll, offensive tackle, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 76: Dillan Gibbons, offensive guard
No. 75: Josh Lugg, offensive lineman
No. 74: Liam Eichenberg, left tackle, two-year starter
No. 73: Andrew Kristofic, offensive tackle, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 72: Robert Hainsey, offensive tackle, three-year starter
No. 71: John Olmstead, offensive lineman, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 69: Aaron Banks, left guard
No. 60: Cole Mabry, offensive tackle
No. 57: Trevor Ruhland, veteran backup offensive lineman
No. 57: Jayson Ademilola, defensive tackle
No. 56: John Dirksen, offensive lineman
No. 56: Howard Cross, incoming freshman defensive lineman, consensus four-star
No. 55: Jarrett Patterson, starting center
No. 55: Ja’Mion Franklin, defensive tackle returning from injury
No. 54: Jacob Lacey, consensus four-star defensive tackle, early enrollee
No. 54: John Shannon, long snapper
No. 53: Khalid Kareem, senior defensive end
No. 52: Zeke Correll, consensus four-star center, early enrollee
No. 52: Bo Bauer, linebacker, sophomore
No. 47: Kofi Wardlow, junior defensive end
No. 45: Jonathan Jones, senior inside linebacker
No. 44: Jamir Jones, senior defensive end
No. 42: Julian Okwara, senior defensive end
No. 41: Kurt Hinish, junior defensive tackle
No. 40: Drew White, junior inside linebacker
No. 39: Jonathan Doerer, junior kicker
No. 35: TaRiq Bracy, sophomore cornerback
No. 35: Marist Liufau, Hawaiian freshman linebacker
No. 34: Jahmir Smith, sophomore running back
No. 34: Osita Ekwonu, inside linebacker, consensus four-star
No. 33: Shayne Simon, sophomore linebacker
No. 31: Jack Lamb, sophomore linebacker
No. 30: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, junior linebacker
No. 29: Ovie Oghoufo, sophomore linebacker-turned-defensive end
No. 27: J.D. Bertrand, consensus four-star linebacker
No. 25: Braden Lenzy, speedy sophomore receiver
No. 24: Tommy Tremble, sophomore tight end
No. 24: Jack Kiser, early-enrolled freshman linebacker, Mr. Indiana Football
No. 23: Litchfield Ajavon, four-star safety, freshman
No. 23: Kyren Williams, early-enrolled freshman running back
No. 22: Kendall Abdur-Rahman, quarterback-turned-receiver, freshman
No. 22: Asmar Bilal, the only returning starting linebacker
No. 21: Jalen Elliott, three-year starting safety
No. 20: Shaun Crawford, defensive back returning from yet another injury
No. 20: C’Bo Flemister, sophomore running back
No. 19: Jay Bramblett, freshman punter
No. 19: Justin Ademilola, sophomore defensive end
No. 18: Joe Wilkins, sophomore receiver
No. 18: Nana Osafo-Mensah, freshman defensive end, consensus four-star
No. 17: Isaiah Robertson, junior receiver
No. 16: K.J. Wallace, freshman defensive back, three-star
No. 15 Isaiah Rutherford, freshman defensive back, consensus four-star
No. 15: Phil Jurkovec, sophomore quarterback
No. 14: Kyle Hamilton, freshman safety, consensus four-star
No. 13: Lawrence Keys, sophomore receiver
No. 13: Paul Moala, sophomore safety-turned-linebacker
No. 12: DJ Brown, sophomore cornerback-turned-safety
No. 12: Ian Book, starting quarterback
No. 11: Alohi Gilman, senior safety
No. 10: Chris Finke, fifth-year receiver, second-year starter
No. 9: Cam Hart, freshman receiver
No. 9: Daelin Hayes, senior defensive end
No. 8: Donte Vaughn, senior cornerback
No. 8: Jafar Armstrong, starting running back, junior
No. 7: Brendon Clark, freshman quarterback
No. 7: Derrik Allen, sophomore safety
No. 6: Tony Jones, senior running back
No. 5: Troy Pride, starting cornerback, senior
No. 4: Avery Davis, sophomore defensive back, former quarterback-turned-running back
No. 4: Kevin Austin, sophomore receiver