Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 25 Philip Riley, early-enrolled freshman cornerback

Philip Riley commitment
rivals.com
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Listed measurements: 5-foot-11 ½, 198 pounds.
2021-22 year, eligibility: The one class on Notre Dame’s roster with clear eligibility parameters, Riley has four seasons of eligibility remaining.
Depth Chart: More likely a field cornerback than a boundary cornerback in the long run, Riley will be no higher than third on the depth chart this season, behind sophomore Clarence Lewis and senior Tariq Bracy. If he does fit better at boundary, he would be the primary backup to junior Cam Hart.
Recruiting: Riley first committed to the Irish in May of 2020, the peak of uncertainty during the pandemic, uncertainty that led him to flip his commitment to USC in September. Eventually, Riley took an unofficial visit to Notre Dame, one without contact with the Irish coaches or tours of the football facilities, but one that restored his confidence in his initial decision, all the same, much to the chagrin of Oregon and Washington.

Rivals.com considered the consensus four-star prospect to be the No. 24 cornerback in the class.

NAME, IMAGE, LIKENESS
Only one day into the new and improved college athletics landscape where athletes can capitalize on their names, images and likenesses, and it certainly seems like nearly everyone will end up working with former Notre Dame walk-on running back Mick Assaf. Riley is not yet, as far as we know, but give it time …

QUOTE
The Irish entered this spring with few bigger questions than their worries at cornerback, so the early-enrolled freshman cornerbacks were given more chances than usual at proving themselves. Head coach Brian Kelly referred to it as “baptism by fire,” a dunking that junior cornerback Cam Hart thought Riley and Ryan Barnes fared well in.

“They’re making great strides this spring,” Hart said. “I feel like this spring was going to be something that’s really huge for them going into the season, they’ve learned a lot, making huge strides. I’m excited for them.”

WHAT WAS SAID WHEN RILEY SIGNED
“Riley’s slight frame does not stop him from showing an eagerness to tackle, but more to his position, his quick hips help him maintain contact with receivers downfield. Good route recognition, efficient use of his hands and technical footwork also bode well for Riley’s future.”

2021 OUTLOOK
Though Notre Dame has made a habit of playing freshman cornerbacks the last five years (Julian Love, Bracy, Lewis), it is unlikely Riley sees extended work this season. If he does, it would indicate a broader failure in the secondary than even most worst-case scenarios would worry about, something more akin to 2016’s rash of injuries that forced Love, Troy Pride and Donte Vaughn all into action.

Irish special teams coordinator Brian Polian did include Riley among players working as punt returners this spring. If he impresses there in August, he could get a real chance to impact games this fall.

DOWN THE ROAD
Notre Dame’s cornerback depth remains murky in Mike Mickens’ second season as its coach. Bracy could return in 2022, and Hart has plenty of time remaining at his second position (originally a receiver), but Riley represents a truer cornerback than the latter and has less mental scar tissue than the former.

He has more length than expected from a sub-six-foot defensive back, and his ball instincts are more apparent than most of his positional competition in South Bend.

Riley will have an opportunity to impress down the line. If Bracy heads elsewhere in 2022, Riley’s first chance could come at nickel back, but if not, the nature of the position mandates options will be needed in time.

NOTRE DAME 99-TO-0
Let’s try this again
No. 99 Rylie Mills, sophomore defensive tackle
No. 98 Alexander Ehrensberger, sophomore defensive end
No. 97 Gabriel Rubio, early-enrolled freshman defensive tackle the size of a Volkswagen
No. 95 Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, fifth-year defensive tackle-turned-end
No. 92 Aidan Keanaaina, sophomore defensive tackle
No. 88 Mitchell Evans, early-enrolled freshman tight end, a former high school quarterback
No. 87 Michael Mayer, star sophomore tight end and lead offensive weapon
No. 85 George Takacs, senior tight end, ‘152 years old’
No. 84 Kevin Bauman, sophomore tight end
No. 82 Xavier Watts, sophomore receiver
No. 81 Jay Brunelle, speedy sophomore receiver
No. 80 Cane Berrong, early-enrolled freshman tight end
No. 79 Tosh Baker, sophomore offensive tackle
No. 78 Pat Coogan, incoming freshman center
No. 77 Quinn Carroll, junior offensive lineman
No. 76 Joe Alt, incoming and towering freshman offensive lineman
No. 75 Josh Lugg, fifth-year right tackle, finally a starter
No. 73 Andrew Kristofic, junior offensive tackle, possible backup center
No. 72 Caleb Johnson, early-enrolled offensive tackle, former Auburn commit
No. 70 Hunter Spears, junior offensive guard, former defensive tackle
No. 68 Michael Carmody, sophomore offensive tackle
No. 62 Marshall guard Cain Madden transfers to Notre Dame, likely 2021 starter
No. 57 Jayson Ademilola, senior defensive tackle
No. 56 John Dirksen, senior reserve offensive lineman
No. 56 Howard Cross, junior defensive tackle
No. 55 Jarrett Patterson, the best Irish offensive lineman
No. 54 Jacob Lacey, junior defensive tackle
No. 54 Blake Fisher, early-enrolled freshman left tackle, starter?
No. 52 Zeke Correll, junior, starting center
No. 52 Bo Bauer, senior linebacker, #BeADog
No. 50 Rocco Spindler, early-enrolled freshman offensive guard
No. 48 Will Schweitzer, early-enrolled freshman defensive end
No. 44 Devin Aupiu, early-enrolled freshman defensive end
No. 44 Alex Peitsch and No. 65 Michael Vinson, Irish long snappers, both needed
No. 41 Kurt Hinish, fifth-year defensive tackle, eventual record-holder in games played
No. 40 Drew White, fifth-year linebacker, three-year starter
No. 39 Jonathan Doerer, fifth-year kicker, using the pandemic exception
No. 38 Jason Onye, incoming and raw freshman defensive end
No. 37 Joshua Bryan, incoming freshman kicker
No. 35 Marist Liufau, junior Hawaiian linebacker
No. 34 Osita Ekwonu, junior defensive end
No. 33 Shayne Simon, senior linebacker
No. 29 Matt Salerno, senior punt returner, walk-on
No. 28 TaRiq Bracy, senior cornerback, possible nickel back
No. 27 JD Bertrand, junior linebacker
No. 26 Clarence Lewis, sophomore cornerback, second-year starter