Ohio Back Likes Irish

Westerville South high school, on the outskirts of Columbus, Ohio, is home to one of the best running backs in the Midwest, Elijah Griffin. Griffin has outstanding speed and big play capability and should be a top prospect in Ohio this season. Do the Irish have a chance to wrestle this prep star from the heart of Buckeye country?

The experts have said that Notre Dame needs to improve its team speed and playmaking ability. If they do indeed lack those elements, Charlie Weis might turn his attention to Elijah Griffin (5-8, 170 lbs.).

At first glance you might think that Griffin is a scat-back or a water bug type running back. I must admit that's what I initially thought. Once Griffin started pealing away the layers of the onion, I found out much more about this prospect than I had initially anticipated.

First, South plays in the largest football classification in the state of Ohio so Griffin's stats are well earned (1,086 rushing yards, on 157 attempts, 11 touchdowns. 11 receptions for 200 yards and one touchdown.) Second, Griffin had eight touchdowns of 40 or more yards called back due to penalty. Third, Griffin was rated the best running back at the 2004 Columbus Nike combine. He was honorable mention all-state and first team Ohio Capital Conference.

After looking at the numbers and talking to Griffin a little more, I still had an image of Warrick Dunn, a running back bobbing and weaving -- zipping in and out of traffic. So I asked Griffin if he had a style that was similar to Warrick Dunn.

"Well, I've seen Warrick Dunn play, but I'd say I'm similar to Anthony Davis of Wisconsin or Michael Hart of Michigan." Griffin explained. "I have very good speed. I ran a 4.37 at the Ohio State camp last year. I have good lateral movement, and I have a great stiff arm. Most smaller backs like to take the pitch and go outside. Although I am a smaller back, I can run inside or outside. In fact, I like running off tackle, tackle-guard or right over center. I like to be physical. I'll run over you or around you -- doesn't matter to me."

I was sold. So the next thing I needed to find out is who Notre Dame's competition would be.

"I'm getting mail from a lot of schools, but I'm getting the most from Virginia, Notre Dame, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Purdue, Indiana, Penn State and Boston College." Griffin said. " I am hearing from Ohio State and Michigan, but those other schools are the one's sending me the most information.

I certainly wasn't surprised by the names of the schools chasing Griffin, but what did surprise me was the amount of interest he had in Notre Dame.

"I'm really interested in Notre Dame," Griffin said. "I like what I've heard about the school; great academics, family oriented and I think I'd be a great fit.

"I tried to make it to Notre Dame a couple times last year. The first time was for the Boston College game. I didn't get the details until the day before the game, so we didn't go. Then I was going to go to the Pittsburgh game, but we were in the playoffs that day.

I presumed Griffin would make his first trip to Notre Dame this spring or summer, but he explained that wasn't the case.

"No, I've been to Notre Dame before," Griffin said. "I went to the game that Ohio State played up there (1996). I was pretty young, but I do remember it. I loved the campus. It was huge, but at the same time, it had a family atmosphere to it. Notre Dame keeps it really clean and well maintained. I just thought it was an amazing place. I can't explain it. It just grabbed me.

"I'd like to go to a junior day or a camp at Notre Dame. I haven't received anything on their junior days, but I do think I just got something about their camp. I might go there. I'm definitely going to the Ohio State camp, because it's right here -- maybe the Tennessee camp."

We asked Griffin what he knew about the new coaching staff at Notre Dame.

"From the information they have sent me, they are impressive." Griffin said, "Coach Weis looks like he's going to be a great head coach. He's certainly shown he's going to be successful. I like his offense. I think I could be successful in his offense. He likes to move the ball around."

Before I ended my conversation with Elijah, I asked him if there was anything else he'd like to add.

"I'd love to have the opportunity to play football for Notre Dame," Griffin said.

By the way, Elijah's dad Daryle played football at Kent State for Don James. All six of Elijah's uncles played football. His uncle Keith played for Miami (FL) and was on the cover of Sports Illustrated for their victory over Nebraska (1984). His uncle Ray played for Ohio State. Another uncle, Archie won two Heisman trophies playing for Ohio State. I told you there were more layers to the onion.

Comments: Griffin is intelligent and well spoken. I get the impression that this kid works his tail off. He is extremely talented and he will have a lot of schools chasing him before it's all over. There is a long way to go, but the last statement by Griffin tells me he's definitely interested in Notre Dame. My guess is that Notre Dame will have a good shot if they offer.

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