Riddick key to unlocking Irish offense

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“I really have high high expectations for him. He’s an elite player.
He’s learning a position, but I think we’ll be talking a lot about Theo
Riddick as we move through the season.”

Those were the comments from head coach Brian Kelly during preseason camp that had Irish fans so excited about the potential of Theo Riddick. Yet after two games, Riddick has yet to make an impact on the Irish offense. His four catches for 53 yards and two carries for three yards certainly don’t equate to the glowing praise Kelly showered on Riddick. The Irish passing offense is still averaging 293 yards a game, but it’s the 81st ranking in scoring offense that points to the fact that something just isn’t clicking.

Riddick’s production mirrors that schism. Outside of the pseudo-Hail Mary that Nate Montana completed to Theo in the final seconds of the first half, the Irish are still waiting for the sophomore speedster to make an impact.

To the coaching staff’s credit, they aren’t ready to give up on Riddick just yet.

“We have to be a little bit patient in that process of getting him where we need him to be,” Kelly said earlier this week. “I see a comfort level with him each and every week where he’s starting to feel a lot more comfortable. I think we’re in the early stages of development of a very good player.”

Heading into a Michigan State game, if you’re looking for a key to beating the Spartan’s defense, it’s throwing the football underneath. Spartan defensive backs will be pushing themselves to minimize the deep ball, and for the most part veteran safeties Marcus Hyde and Trent Robinson have improved against the over-the-top throw, something I expect the Irish to try and do with Michael Floyd and TJ Jones. That said, if the secondary is stretching vertically, there’s nothing but room for Riddick to operate on the interior of the football field.

Offensive coordinator Charley Molnar was upbeat when talking about Riddick, a guy he thinks is really close to breaking through.

“He’s a play away,” Molnar said. “If he gets the ball delivered to him on one play or if he made one catch in the right position, he probably could take it the distance.”

To Riddick’s credit, he’s staying positive and working hard as he works to become a full-time wide receiver, albeit one with above-average running back skills.

“I’m still in the process of becoming a complete wide receiver,” Riddick said yesterday after practice. “I believe the hard part of the transition is over. Now it’s just getting into the little details and little things like that.”

For the Irish to win this Saturday night in hostile territory, those little things need to include some catches in the open field and wreaking havoc over the middle in the Spartans secondary.