With one final season of eligibility remaining, senior Theo Riddick is willing to do whatever it takes for the Notre Dame football team to right the ship. Then again, that’s always been his attitude.
Arriving as a freshman running back in 2009, the Manville, N.J., product served as the team’s primary return man and as a reserve tailback, registering 849 kickoff return yards and 160 yards on the ground on 29 carries. But in 2010, head coach Brian Kelly’s first season with the Fighting Irish, Riddick’s shiftiness was needed at the slot receiver position. Riddick happily moved and began soaking up the nuances of a new assignment.
He caught 40 passes for 414 yards and three touchdowns as a sophomore and made 38 catches for 436 yards and three scores his junior season in 2011. Riddick will likely keep hauling in passes now that he’s been moved to a RB/slot hybrid position, but he’s focused on getting back to his rushing roots.
“I guess you can view that as you viewed Jonas [Gray] and Cierre [Wood],” Riddick said of the backfield tandem that produced 1,893 yards and 21 touchdowns last fall. Gray, who has since moved on as a rookie free agent with the Miami Dolphins, was responsible for 791 yards and 12 TDs before injuring his knee against Boston College on Nov. 19.
Riddick is confident he and Wood can both eclipse the 1,000-yard mark as seniors.
“I believe so,” he said. “Definitely.”
Confidence, he says, has never been an issue, even when his performance early last year as the squad’s punt returner didn’t turn out as planned. Riddick had problems with fumbles and catching the ball cleanly. It was an area the Irish never were able to tighten up. Kelly wouldn’t say which player or players would be responsible for punt returns in 2012, but Riddick feels he’ll be the guy.
“A lot of criticism came out and a lot of players would put their heads down,” he said. “I kept my head right up high, and I guess you could say it was a good thing. I want to be there full-time.”
Just add it to the list of responsibilities Riddick, who added 15 pounds during the offseason and is up to 205 now, will have in his final campaign.
“I want as much as they can put on my plate,” he added. “It’s my senior year. I want to go out on top. With that being said, I just want to do the best I can.”
“We didn’t want him to just be a tailback,” Kelly said. “We wanted him involved. I think this [hybrid] position … it came together as we started to fit the offense to our players. The offense, in terms of what we’re doing, really fits Theo, so he gets both that ability to run the football and line up as a wide receiver. He sees it. He feels comfortable with it, and we’re seeing the benefit of that as coaches.”