We come to the second most important player for the upcoming season for Notre Dame and it’s a guy I think most would overlook a little. Junior wide receiver Theo Riddick will be one of the most important players for the Irish this season for a number of reasons. His performance could determine whether the offense plays just so-so or moves up and down in a high-flying style.
Riddick’s main importance comes with providing the receiving corps with a somewhat veteran presence. Sure, there are others like John Goodman, Robby Toma, and Deion Walker who could claim veteran status, but none of those guys have the talent or even experience compared to Riddick. So Riddick’s balance of playing time and ability make him a guy that needs to play well. Of course there is another player that trumps Riddick in both of those categories, but that gives just another reason why Riddick will be so important this year.
Michael Floyd may be the best player on Notre Dame’s roster, if he’s even allowed to play. Following his arrest for DUI, Floyd has been suspended from the team pending him providing proof to Brian Kelly that he’s turned his life around and can hit certain “benchmarks” of behavior that would allow him to play. So far it seems as if Floyd is doing everything right and, at this point, it appears likely he will play in the Irish’s season opener against South Florida. Regardless of his status, though, make no mistake that Theo Riddick is the guy to watch at receiver.
If Floyd does play, Riddick becomes that solid number two receiver that must take pressure off Floyd. If teams double-up of Floyd, Riddick will have opportunities to make plays one-on-one. If defenses play straight up, without a second threat in the passing game, ND’s passing offense becomes one-dimensional and anemic. Riddick has to become a playmaker.
If Floyd doesn’t play, Riddick becomes even more important because now he’s the guy. He’s the number one receiver and the one player who right now has proven he can be a difference-maker in the passing game. He’ll be counted on to do the things Floyd would do and be the go-to guy at receiver. Either way, it’s on Riddick to perform.
The good news on that front is Riddick has shown he can be a weapon at the position. Last year he caught 40 passes for 414 yards and three touchdowns. And he did that in just nine games, missing four contests with an injury In the three contests surrounding his injury, the game he got injured and the two after he came back, he only caught three passes total, meaning he caught 37 passes for 395 yards and his three scores in six games. Half a season. He was just becoming the big-time receiver the coaches thought he could be when the injury occurred. A healthy Riddick this season and he’ll put up some big numbers.
Let’s not forget that last year was his first season at receiver after playing running back his freshman season. He had to learn a new position in just a few months, all the nuances and techniques a receiver must have compared to running back. This season he’ll be even more prepared to handle the responsibilities of his position.
This year things should be different and better for Notre Dame’s offense. Players no longer have to worry about knowing the plays. They know them now. This year is about executing at a high level. Everyone should be better. That includes Theo Riddick. Having him out there should give the Fighting Irish a terriffic one-two punch with Michael Floyd, or at least give the Irish a terriffic lead receiver in the case Floyd doesn’t play. Plenty of young talent will try to make a splash this season at receiver, but it will be Theo Riddick leading the way.