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Notre Dame

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Senior brings versatility to Irish offense

Riddick

– Theo Riddick plans on being a busy man in his final season with Notre Dame.

Coach Brian Kelly and the offensive staff have tailored a hybrid position of slot receiver and running back that will utilized the 5-foot-11, 200-pound senior in multiple ways.

“I want as much as they can put on my plate,” Riddick said. “It’s my senior year. I want to go out on top. With that being said, I’m just trying to do the best I can.”

Riddick came to Notre Dame as a running back and ran for 160 yards on 29 carries as a freshman. He also had six receptions for 43 yards, playing in 12 games his first season.

When Kelly took over the program in 2010, Riddick was moved to receiver. He started eight of nine games, missing four games because of a foot injury and caught 40 passes for 414 yards with three touchdowns.

Riddick started nine of 11 games last season, missing two games with a hamstring injury. He was Notre Dame’s third-leading receiver, catching 38 passes for 436 yards with three touchdowns.

Riddick moved back to running back for the final two games of last season after Jonas Gray was lost to a torn anterior cruciate ligament and other damage in his right knee. He ran for 63 yards on eight carries.

Riddick will be counted on to increase his rushing and receiving totals as he backs up starting running back Cierre Wood and shares time in the slot with Robby Toma.

“I think he fits that hybrid position more relative to his ability to stay in the passing game,” Kelly said. “We didn’t want him just to be a tailback. We wanted him involved. This position came together as we started to fit the offense to our players. So 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 feels comfortable with it, and then we’re seeing the benefits of that as coaches.”

Riddick doesn’t want to stop at having multiple duties in the offense.

He also wants to pitch in on special teams, specifically in helping a punt return unit that ranked 112th in the Football Bowl Subdivision averaging 3.69 yards on 13 returns.

Notre Dame experimented with Riddick as a punt returner at the start of last season, but two fumbles and a minus-1 yard return total in the season opener against South Florida had the Irish turn back to John Goodman, a Bishop Dwenger graduate, for most of the season and Michael Floyd at the end of the year to return punts.

Kelly isn’t sold on trying Riddick as a return man again.

“We’ve got a number of guys that we are going to work back there,” Kelly said. “I think I’m more concerned with him on the offensive side of the ball right now.”

Kelly may not be sold on Riddick returning punts, but the senior has done everything he can on his own to convince the coaches he deserves another shot.

Riddick stayed after practice during the spring to field punts and during the summer caught punts surrounded by players to prepare for a shot at returning this season.

And most importantly, Riddick never lost faith in himself.

“I never lost my confidence,” Riddick said. “That was the major thing, you know what I mean? A lot of criticism came out and a lot of players would put their heads down. I kept my head right up high. I guess you could say it’s a good thing but I want to be there full time.”

tkrausz@jg.net

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