SOUTH BEND – Theo Riddick will start at the position he was recruited at for the first time for Notre Dame when the season kicks off against Navy on Saturday in Dublin, Ireland.
Riddick, who was converted to slot receiver two seasons ago, will start at running back because of the suspension of senior Cierre Wood.
Coach Brian Kelly suspended Wood and defensive end Justin Utupo on Sunday for the first two games of the season because of a violation of team rules.
Im very comfortable now, Riddick said Tuesday of starting at running back. Im not saying I wasnt comfortable at wide receiver, but it was a transition. Ive been playing running back since I was a little kid, and to have the chance to do it on this type of level, which Ive really havent, Im just excited for this opener.
The Irish will start the season with three running backs because of Woods suspension, which also includes the home opener Sept. 8 against Purdue. The Irish are also without Amir Carlisle, who has not recovered from a broken ankle he suffered in the spring but could return next week.
Riddick, a 5-foot-11, 200-pound senior, will be backed up by sophomores George Atkinson III (6-1, 210 pounds) and Cam McDaniel (5-10, 195).
Riddick ran for 160 yards on 29 carries as a freshman, and he had 78 receptions for 840 yards with six touchdowns the last two years. He has run for 252 yards on 54 carries in three seasons.
Atkinson, who had nine carries for 27 yards last season, was mainly used to return kickoffs. He returned two for touchdowns and set the school single-season record with 915 kickoff-return yards.
McDaniel played primarily on special teams last season and had been working out at cornerback.
Kelly said that McDaniel will only play offense for the foreseeable future.
(Riddick is) a guy that was bred for this position in terms of if you call it a hybrid or whatever you want to call it, Kelly said. Running the ball is his first love, and its something that hes accustomed to through high school and his first year or so here. He fits terrifically right now.
George is making progress every day. Hes continued to evolve in that position. And Cam McDaniel is somebody thats very familiar with this position because he played in the spread offense and he was somebody that was very comfortable.
So I think two of them are very comfortable in the position they are right now, and one is evolving in George.
Atkinson said everyone is ready to fill the void left by Wood, who ran for 1,102 yards and nine touchdowns last year.
We all have different styles of running, and I think we are all weapons, Atkinson said.
So if one goes down, another guy is going to pick you right back up, and I dont think we will lose a beat.