Better Fit?

Junior running back Theo Riddick is back home with one of his best friends in the Irish offensive backfield.

Junior Theo Riddick's second move under the Brian Kelly regime includes less of an adjustment than did his first.

Kelly took over the Notre Dame program between Riddick's freshman and sophomore seasons and promptly moved the promising tailback to slot receiver – an essential position in the coach's read-option, shotgun attack. It appeared the move would pay huge dividends for both as after two quiet games to begin the 2010 season and the Kelly era, Riddick exploded, catching 33 passes for 343 yards and three touchdowns over his next four outings – the former number marking the second most receptions by any Notre Dame player over a four-game stretch since 1970.

Riddick suffered a season-killing ankle injury thereafter and never again approached that level of production, finishing the 2011 season – one that included a hamstring strain and two games out of the lineup – with 36 receptions for 429 yards and three more scores.

Back where he belongs?

A third injury necessitated Riddick's second position switch, but it had nothing to do with Riddick. Senior Jonas Gray's season-ending knee injury left Kelly's offense with Cierre Wood and a pair of untested freshmen as running back options entering Game 12 at Stanford on Thanksgiving Weekend.

Riddick's move under that scenario was apparently pre-determined and welcomed.

"We already discussed it in the summer," said Riddick of his injury-related move back to the backfield. "Once it went down (Gray's injury), Coach Kelly approached me but I had already talked to a few coaches and told them I was ready to do it.

"I was excited to be back there," he continued of his initial foray that coincided with his return after two games missed due to a hamstring injury. "There wasn't too much they could do with me vs. Stanford, but with this stretch (the offense) is starting to open up and we'll see how that goes for the game."

Familiarity aside, adjustments are still necessary as Riddick's freshman role as a backup runner was in Charlie Weis' pro-style offense and generally as an I-formation tailback.

"A little bit, a little bit," Riddick admitted of the initial rust he experienced moving back. "I was a little to fast on certain runs and my positioning to make blocks (was incorrect). It was definitely a little bit of a transition in terms of the fundamentals. I believe I have those back and down pat and now (the focus) is being detail-oriented in both the run and pass."

His positioning in the backfield differs from past experiences, but the skill set and approach remains intact.

"Obviously there's a comfort zone, I've played the position my whole life," he noted following practice over the weekend. "There are some nuances to the game and things of that nature and I'm picking it up better each day."

Aiding him in that cause is classmate and good friend, Cierre Wood.

"He talks to me about ball security, just watching out for the linebackers (again). Details vs. blitzes and those nuances," Riddick said of Wood's guidance as he assimilates to the running back rotation. "I hang out with him all the time. So to hang out with him on the field more (is exciting); it's a great bond between us."

As for "watching out for those linebackers", Riddick has already experienced one rude welcome back moment. "Dan Fox got me," he admitted. "I came around on a loop and he got me good, but that's part of the transition, right?"

Noting film study with position coach Tim Hinton as key to the next week of practice, Riddick was presented with a second hurdle, one he predictably took in stride: his move back to running back coincides with a matchup vs. the nation's No. 2 ranked rush defense.

"Yeah, those things happen," he said with a shrug. "It's a great challenge and I'm looking forward to it."

Theo Riddick at Running Back: 2009 Top Stories