Landing Marcus Freeman to run the Notre Dame defense was a coup for head coach Brian Kelly. Now it's Freeman's turn to hit the ground running on the recruiting trail, which is where he can make an immediate impact for the Fighting Irish program.
The number one recruit on the board for Freeman needs to be Houston Griffith, the former Notre Dame safety who entered the transfer portal last week.
Notre Dame desperately needs to add a safety to the roster that can contribute in 2021, and there isn't a safety in the transfer portal market that would make the kind of 2021 impact that Griffith could.
Griffith was inconsistent in his 215 snaps this season, but when he was on his game he looked like the former Top 100 recruit that Notre Dame signed as part of the 2018 class. Pro Football Focus graded him higher than it did starter Shaun Crawford and the other rotation safety, DJ Brown. Griffith also had more solo tackles than starting Buck linebacker Shayne Simon.
The issue with Griffith has been the inability to get the necessary work at one spot to develop his full repertoire, and the vast majority of the reason for that has been factors outside of his control.
The staff moved him from cornerback to nickel, from nickel to safety, from safety to cornerback, and finally from cornerback to safety late in the 2019 season. Losing the spring hurt him more than it did most defenders on the roster, as it eliminated his first big chance to earn the reps needed to finally get comfortable at safety.
Griffith is a naturally instinctive player, and if he returns to the roster and gets the reps needed to develop his skills he could have a breakout 2021 season.
His decision to transfer had nothing to do with playing time, as Griffith was slated to enter the spring as the top contender for a starting role opposite Kyle Hamilton.
With Terry Joseph departing for Texas my sources indicate that Griffith would be open to returning, although it's far from a given. My sources have also indicated that Notre Dame has made it clear it wants Griffith, and expressed that even after his decision to transfer.
If Freeman can convince Griffith to return it would be his first recruiting victory, and it would give him a talented, veteran safety with the tools to solidify the safety position in the fall. It would mean the likely starting safety opposite Hamilton will be on campus in the spring, and it would allow Notre Dame to focus its secondary recruiting on the 2022 class, and not the transfer portal.
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