Theo Riddick was recruited by Notre Dame to carry the ball. He did so sparingly as a freshman, compiling 160 yards on 29 carries. He will greatly improve on that figure in 2012.
When Brian Kelly replaced Charlie Weis, he thought Riddick would be best used in the slot of his spread offense. He had limited success in the position and welcomed the return to running back at the end of last season.
Riddick was pushed into action against Stanford after Jonas Gray tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee Nov. 19.
The real need was to prepare Riddick for the Champs Sports Bowl against Florida State. He had eight carries and 36 yards against the Florida State Seminoles and their second-ranked rush defense.
Spring practices are an important step for Riddick. He struggled to get up to speed in the short preparation period last year, but expects to be part of a successful tandem with Cierre Wood this season.
Riddick has stated a comfort level with the return to running back:
Definitely, I'm obviously in a comfort zone. I played the position my whole life. But there are some nuances to the game and things around that nature, and like I said I'm picking it up better each day and the major issue is just detail-oriented toward each play, and that's one thing I have to focus on.
He is also looking forward to sharing a backfield with Wood.
It’s great to be back there with him again. We are great friends and I’m just very excited. The sky’s the limit. As a college player you want to reach your peak, and that’s what we’re trying to do.
I mean we are friends. If I mess up on the field he will help me and vice versa, like I said we want to do what we can do best for this team. We both have to compete it’s the name of the game and whoever best it’ll happen. We both want to be number one, so from a competition standpoint but we both want to be the best we can be for the team.
Kelly sees Riddick as a hybrid player and expects to see him line up from the slot and the backfield this season. “He can do both. He can play running back and he can play wide receiver,” Kelly said. “I think the rest now becomes tactical advantages in terms of where we place him on the field. We really get some great matchup opportunities.”
While this should be good news for Notre Dame, opponents should feel warned. Riddick is a talented runner and if Kelly can find ways to get him the ball—especially in the open field—the Irish offense should be back and churning.