On Saturday, Notre Dame saw three offensive players enter the transfer portal. In the last 24 hours, the Irish have seen a pair of former 4-star defensive backs reportedly enter the transfer portal as well. Last night it was CB Isaiah Rutherford. This afternoon safety Houston Griffith has reportedly joined him in seeking a transfer.
Rutherford was one of Notre Dame’s top signees in 2019 and one of the highest-rated corners to sign under Brian Kelly, but in two seasons, he wasn’t able to crack the rotation even with injuries and plenty of opportunities for playing time. In 2020, true freshman Clarence Lewis jumped over Rutherford and other upperclassmen to grab a starting role.
Even with potential playing time with potentially two starting corner roles up for grabs in 2021 (boundary and slot), Rutherford’s name was not routinely mentioned as someone to watch for.
There will be a lot of playing time up for grabs this spring if Nick McCloud decides to leave for the NFL instead of utilizing the free year of eligibility the NCAA granted all football players this fall. Converted wide receiver junior Cam Hart, rising sophomores Ramon Henderson and Caleb Offord, and incoming freshmen Phillip Riley, Ryan Barnes, and Chance Tucker will round out what could be a very young Irish secondary baring another graduate transfer similar to McCloud this year.
On the other hand, Houston Griffith seemed poised to finally break through to the starting lineup again in 2021, with Shaun Crawford moving on after completing his sixth season at Notre Dame. Griffith was a top-100 recruit and the highest-rated prospect in Notre Dame’s 2018 recruiting class.
As a true freshman in 2018, Griffith began the season as Notre Dame’s starting nickel back but bounced in and out of the lineup as he struggled to play a new position. Since then, he has been unable to reassert himself as a starter in the Irish secondary. It appeared as though that opportunity awaited him in 2021.
With Griffith entering the portal, that could clear the way for a three-way battle for a starting role opposite Kyle Hamilton for Isaiah Pryor, DJ Brown, and KJ Wallace. Notre Dame also signed three defensive backs who figure to compete at safety – JoJo Johnson, Khari Gee, and Justin Walters.