Forty-nine games into his career in the Irish defensive backfield, Notre Dame graduate Houston Griffith enters his fifth and final season with a resume highlighted by experience, an approach defined by savvy and smarts, and with a pertinent question still-saddled next to his name.
Griffith’s 49 games included 15 starting assignments—at least one in three of four seasons including once his freshman year of 2018 and 12 of 13 last fall. He’s played more than 1,040 snaps from scrimmage, plus another 460 on special teams.
He’s started at both nickel cornerback and safety, and played boundary cornerback along the way.
But that’s where the numbers game ends for Griffith, best complimented by the following football truism at certain positions:
“You don’t often hear his name.”
But Griffith’s position coach, Chris O’Leary, would like to hear his pupil’s name uttered over the loudspeaker a little more this fall.
“If you’re not getting talked about safety, you’re probably doing your job,” said O’Leary of Griffith. “That’s what he did a good job for us last year, but he has a skill set that he can take another step. And that’s the focus right now for him is that we got to make some plays on the ball.”
The nation’s 70th-ranked recruit in the 2018 class, Griffith is today’s feature in our Counting Down the Irish series.
- Irish Illustrated Ranking: 49
- Prister Ranking: 45
- O’Malley Ranking: 55
- Sinclair Ranking: 51
- Loyalty Ranking: 47
- 2021 Ranking: 32
Prister Says: “He’s still on the roster as a fifth-year player because a) he provides ample experience and b) he provides ample athleticism. It’s the unwillingness to be a physical football player that has cast a shadow of doubt over the benefits of his return.”
What To Expect In 2022
A few facts to consider:
- Houston Griffith’s official vertical leap last summer measured 38.3 inches—third behind only Kyle Hamilton and Tariq Bracy
- Griffith’s 10′ broad jump was tied for third with Kevin Austin behind Hamilton and Bracy
- Griffith’s 490-pound squat was tied with Bracy for highest among the defensive backs
- Griffith finished the 2021 Football Season with no interceptions, no passes defended, no forced fumbles, no tackles for lost yardage, and no sacks.
Can Houston “We Don’t Often Have a Problem” finally develop into “Houston: The Player with No Limits” in his fifth and final season?
Griffith exited spring behind Brandon Joseph at one safety position with (presumably) DJ Brown and Ramon Henderson the chief combatants at the other—but with Griffith likely to have a chance to life for the open starting spot opposite Joseph in August.
That quartet pairs with Xavier Watts and Justin Walters to round out the group. Watts enters the summer as an X-Factor—far more physical than Griffith, but nowhere near him in terms of knowledge of the position and, as important, the positions around him.
Opinions on Irish Illustrated vary in this realm, but I expect Griffith to be the No. 4 safety in 2022, with five safeties playing from scrimmage and all six on special teams.
This is the last ride.
Griffith’s COVID-19 extended eligibility takes place this fall.
Stat Of The Day
Irish Illustrated has tracked Drive MVPs since the outset of the 2015 season. Last year’s defensive leader was Isaiah Foskey (28) followed by Jayson Ademilola (20), Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa and Justin Ademilola (19 pieces) and Drew White with 18.
Griffith recorded a pair—that compared to 14 by Kyle Hamilton in six games and 8 by DJ Brown, all of which occurred after Hamilton’s oft-referenced knee injury.
Griffith’s occurred in Game #1 at Florida State (a key third down tackle) and Game #12 at Stanford (a fumble recovery).
Quote To Note
“Last year it was ‘learn the defense, be in the right spot.’ It was the first time those guys were taking major reps. Now it’s like, ‘We want to be the best safety unit in the country. So what does that take? That takes making plays. And so when you’re out there, you’re not just out there. To be out there, you gotta go make plays.” — O’Leary on the development of both Griffith and DJ Brown