The former, Robby Toma, won over Irish fans with his perimeter blocking, technical skills (how about that foot drag!?), and north-south approach after the catch Saturday night en route to career highs of seven receptions and 73 yards. The latter, Theo Riddick, has shown flashes but still seems a fish out of water at the position – his best moments this season occurring on short crossing routes he's turned into first downs (and a touchdown) with his feet.
Toma filled-in for Riddick, out with a hamstring injury last week. When the latter returns, can the pair be utilized more efficiently? Or to be blunt, will Toma earn more snaps than he had prior to Saturday night's win over Maryland?
"Robby is somebody we've always had high regard for. We've tried to get him into games and I think we've managed to get him in early in games," said head coach Brian Kelly. "I think its incumbent on us now to continue that rotation with Robby and Theo when Theo's back."
Could Riddick return for the home finale vs. Boston College on Saturday?
"I really don't know. The doctors met with him (Sunday), they liked his range of motion. They liked that he was pain free," Kelly said. "The test really will be as we progress and move him up to full speed by probably Wednesday. I think that will really tell and see if he picks up any soreness and then that could be a setback. We really won't know until the middle of the week."
Just hurt, not injuredKelly offered the team exited FedEx Field in good shape, with no new injuries to report. "We were able to preserve some guys in the sense that they'll be better next week. Manti (Te'o) in particular, as you know, we didn't play him on any third downs and didn't play for the last quarter and a half. Ethan (Johnson) played, gave us some very quality in his reps. He feels good (Sunday)," Kelly added.
Te'o was obviously limited in his motion, but Kelly noted that the junior leader gave the defense what it needed, and they never considered sitting the All-America candidate for the entire contest.
"We felt like he could serve in a very positive role for us in first and second down, which he did," Kelly said. "He didn't move well enough for him to be out there on third down (passing situations) and I think we gave him about a quarter-and-a-half off (at the conclusion), we really got him out of the game quickly.
"He came in and reported (Sunday) as well as he has in the last three weeks. I think we're back on track to getting him on the field for all of the downs. It worked out well," Kelly stated. "We felt like he would be very important to us, especially in first and second down and it proved out to be the case."
Trickle-down effect?In tow Saturday night and for the entire road schedule has been injured tight end Mike Ragone. The 5th-year senior tore his ACL in Week Two vs. Michigan, the third such injury of his career dating back to high school.
"He has really matured and understands his role as a teammate. Matter of fact, I asked him to represent our football team at the pep rally on Friday night in Washington D.C. He was honored to do so," Kelly said of the formerly bruising lead-blocker. "I think it's just the maturation process of all of our players including our seniors in understanding the primary purpose for them to be here, and that's to get a degree and play for Notre Dame.
"I would tell you that Mike is representative of that philosophy that we've instilled in our football team."
Though Ragone could apply for a rare 6th-season of eligibility at season's end, another ACL victim, senior linebacker Steve Filer, has played has last game at Notre Dame. Filer will exit a four-year monogram winner…and he'll enter the Stadium's north tunnel on Senior Day vs. Boston College on his own terms.
"We're going to get him through Senior Day; we want him to be able to come out with his teammates and walk out onto the stadium for his last home game," Kelly said of Filer. "Then we will then go in and begin a very lengthy process relative to his knee."