Skip navigation
Sign up to follow your favorites on all your devices.
Sign up

Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 98 Devan Houstan, early-enrolled four-star defensive tackle

Listed measurements: 6-foot-4, 287 pounds
2023-24 year, eligibility: An early-enrolled freshman, Houstan has all four years of eligibility remaining.Depth Chart: There should be seven players ahead of Houstan at the two defensive tackle positions, and with the transfer window closed, all seven should remain ahead of him when preseason practices start. For that matter, junior Jason Onye and sophomore Tyson Ford looked like rotation contributors during the Blue-Gold Game, suggesting Houstan’s chances of jumping them into the rotation are even slimmer than expected.
Recruiting: A consensus four-star recruit and the No. 22 defensive tackle in the class, per, Houstan spurned offers from South Carolina, Penn State and Mike Elston and Michigan when he chose the Irish. Houstan’s brother, Caleb, played on the Wolverines basketball team in 2021-22 before declaring for the NBA draft (where he was selected No. 32 overall).

That connection — and his early-recruiting relationship with Elston, the former Notre Dame defensive line coach — was not enough to sway Houstan from a commitment made 52 weeks ago and thus seven full months before he could sign his National Letter of Intent. When he made that initial commitment, Houstan was the 12th in an Irish class that had only four- and five-stars.

“I wouldn’t say the recruiting class was a big part of my decision but it definitely factored in,” Houstan said to “I looked at it as, ‘All these amazing players want to be there, why do they want to be there?’ I broke it down and dissected it and understood that you can get the best of both worlds at Notre Dame.

“In terms of the players there, I want to be in a room where I’m going to be pushed 24 hours a day, where I know the guy next to me could take my spot in a matter of seconds. That will constantly light a fire under my ass and it will make me a better player in general.”

A Canadian who played high school football in Maryland, any advertising partnership between Houstan and the city that causes every content management system to constantly think his last name is a misspelling would be an illogical partnership. Instead, leaning into those Canadian roots should yield positive results over time.

From Mississauga, Ontario — just outside of Toronto — Houstan has an advantage the most prominent recent Canadian on the Irish roster did not. Chase Claypool’s hometown of Abbotsford, British Columbia, is far from such a large population center.

Until Houstan raises his profile enough to capitalize on that thought, spending time with charity work is obviously a good cause.

Houstan has some experience with hip-hop dance, and he chalks up some of his defensive success to that background, but perhaps not in the way one would initially assume.

“Dancing helped a lot,” Houstan said this winter. “Quick feet, all that good stuff. In terms of coordination, it’s helped tremendously, but I would definitely say it has helped the most in terms of being able to mimic what other people do.

“As you know, pass rushing is kind of like an art if you really look at it. Being able to watch someone and then mimic them is huge. My ability to do that is what sets me apart and helps me along the way.”

“Devan Houstan is quick enough to rush off the edge in high school. Maryland high school football talent is not particularly strong, to be generous, but his clean releases around the tackles are still impressive. They are often helped by strong hands swatting blockers away.

“He will have to adjust to the different game in college, both in moving to the interior full-time and in the massive ramp-up in opposing talent, but Houstan’s raw talent and ability to hold space are clear.”

It will be a surprise if Houstan appears in as many as four games in 2023. He is far more likely to spend the entire season working on his conditioning and learning the intricacies of the defensive interior.

That is in part because Notre Dame has depth on the inside, even if it is not thoroughly proven. Senior Rylie Mills and fifth-year Howard Cross will start, with juniors Jason Onye and Gabriel Rubio their presumed backups. Another trio yet will stand between Houstan and genuine playing time, and of that trio, Ford and sophomore Donovan Hinish can use every rep they can get to be more capable third-team rotation pieces. That need will take away from Houstan’s chances in mop-up duty.

Mills and Cross should start as long as each stays in South Bend, both with two years of eligibility remaining. But after them, chances should present themselves. None of Onye, Rubio or Ford (or Hinish or senior Aidan Keanaaina) have proven themselves on Saturdays. Rubio has all the size in the world, but some skepticism can linger until that size yields three or more tackles against a team better than Stanford (an ankle sprain limited Cross as Rubio racked up seven tackles).

If Houstan proves worthy of his four-star recruiting profile, particularly the scholarship offers from all the Power Five conferences, then he should find his way into a contributing role as Mills and Cross wrap up their collegiate careers, be that after 2023 or after 2024.

The summer countdown begins anew, Rylie Mills to Deion Colzie
No. 99 Rylie Mills, senior defensive tackle, moving back inside from end
No. 98 Devan Houstan, early-enrolled four-star defensive tackle
No. 97 Gabriel Rubio, junior defensive tackle, one of three Irish DTs with notable experience
No. 95 Tyson Ford, sophomore defensive tackle, up 30 pounds from a year ago
No. 93 Armel Mukam, incoming freshman defensive end, former Stanford commit
No. 92 Aidan Keanaaina, a senior defensive tackle now ‘fully healthy’ after a 2022 torn ACL
No. 91 Aiden Gobaira, sophomore defensive end, former four-star recruit
No. 88 Mitchell Evans, the next starter at ‘TE U’
No. 87 Cooper Flanagan, incoming freshman tight end, four-star recruit
No. 84 Kevin Bauman, senior tight end coming off a torn ACL
No. 83 Jayden Thomas, junior receiver, probable No. 1 target in 2023
No. 79 Tosh Baker, senior tackle, again a backup but next year ...
No. 78 Pat Coogan, junior interior offensive lineman
No. 77 Ty Chan, sophomore offensive tackle, former four-star recruit
No. 76 Joe Alt, first-team All-American left tackle
No. 74 Billy Schrauth, sophomore left guard, likely starter
No. 73 Andrew Kristofic, fifth-year right guard, likely starter
No. 72 Sam Pendelton, early-enrolled freshman offensive lineman
No. 70 Ashton Craig, sophomore interior offensive lineman
No. 68 Michael Carmody, senior offensive lineman
No. 56 Charles Jagusah, incoming freshman offensive lineman, four-star recruit
No. 55 Chris Terek, incoming freshman offensive lineman, four-star recruit
No. 51 Boubacar Traore, incoming freshman defensive end, four-star recruit
No. 17 Brenan Vernon, incoming freshman defensive end, four-star recruit
No. 13 Holden Staes, sophomore tight end, up 20 pounds in a year
No. 12 Penn State RB transfer Devyn Ford gives Notre Dame newly-needed backfield depth, experience
No. 4 Rhode Island transfer safety Antonio Carter gives Notre Dame desperately needed backline depth

tweet to @d_farmer