You can always go home again. For senior Theo Riddick, that means taking a few steps behind the line of scrimmage, visualizing the running lanes and sliding back into a groove that got him a scholarship to Notre Dame in the first place.
Riddick, now back at running back after spending the last two seasons at slot receiver, is visibly elated.
“I’m back to my comfort zone,” he said.
Entering this spring at 203 pounds, the Manville, N.J. native is noticeably more shredded in preparation for his role reversal. He started the 2011 campaign at 198 pounds. Having arrived at Notre Dame in 2009 at around 210 pounds, he’s used to the added bulk and giddy at the chance to show what he can do with it.
“I’m excited to be back there,” he said. “I can’t wait, to be honest with you, just to show everybody I can do it and be effective at it.”
His demeanor is quite a departure from the many sullen Saturday evenings last year, no doubt a product of an 8-5 season as much as it was Riddick’s struggle to perform in the punt return game, stay healthy and produce the kind of electric plays at the slot position that was expected of him.
Being a receiver just wasn’t what he thought it would be when he was asked to abandon his running back roots at the end of the 2009 season. Riddick, however, has no regrets.
“Not at all,” he said. “I learned so much. I learned a lot of stuff that I didn’t really know about the wide receiver position. To be honest, I always thought it was the easiest position. I found out it wasn’t. It helped me out catching the ball, reading coverages and knowing where people were going to be at. I don’t have any regrets.”
What he does have is 252 rushing yards (on 54 carries) and 84 receptions for 893 receiving yards and six touchdowns in his career. Though his time at receiver didn’t exactly go as planned, Riddick is the mold for a new hybrid position that mixes the slot and the tailback in head coach Brian Kelly’s spread offense.
“It’s just a person that can do both,” Riddick said. “It’s very versatile — the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield and from the receiver position.”
More importantly, Riddick’s move bolsters a RB group that lost Jonas Gray to graduation. The staff hopes to have a tandem in senior Cierre Wood and Riddick that was effective as Wood and Gray in 2011 (combined 1,893 yards and 21 touchdowns).
“I’ve been playing this position since I was a little kid,” Riddick said. “I feel as if I can play it in my sleep. “... [Wood and I] are competitors. We’re great friends, but we’re competitors. If I don’t push him, how’s he going to get better? And vice versa. We just want to help this team be as good as it can be. The sky is the limit. I just want to go out there and display my talents.”