New, But No Rookie

Former Florida starter Cody Riggs vies for a pair of roles in the Irish secondary.

August training camp, both at the collegiate and professional level, is embraced by football fans largely because of the intrigue it offers.

No one has missed a tackle. No one has missed a block. And no one can prove the new scheme offered by a new head coach or coordinator isn't clearly superior to the last.

And long before recruiting services dominated the internet, fans wanted to know one thing about their favorite team entering every season:

Who's the next big thing?

Head football coaches, on the other, are far more interested in known quantities. Enter Cody Riggs, college graduate, fifth-year transfer and veteran starter of 26 football games at the University of Florida.

"He's a physical corner. He's going to have to learn a lot because he's gonna have to play a couple positions for us," said Irish head coach Brian Kelly of his most game-ready newcomer for 2014. "He fits in very well here, mature. He brings a lot of leadership and experience. Very helpful."

Riggs joins a cornerback unit high on competition and young talent, but other than junior Keivarae Russell, low on proven production.

"They obviously talk a lot about football," said Kelly of Riggs and Russell, the latter likewise a 26-game starter at the college level. "KeiVarae is learning football at that position and I think Cody has been very helpful in just experience and talking about reading receivers. He's been a good mentor."

The mentor dynamic comes naturally for Riggs, regardless of his reality as an infiltrator to the existing cornerback's dynamic.

"Guys like Cole Luke, Devin Butler, Nick Watkins, they're young, very talented guys with a bright future," Riggs said. "Usually Devin is on KeiVarae's side, but we do flip-flop and I'll work with him a lot, too.

"Me and Cole and Josh (Atkinson) and others are battling for the (left) cornerback position. Cole and I communicate a lot. Being an older guy, I'm able to mentor them and tell them about my experiences, what to expect in situations and how that can benefit them."

All Business -- School and Otherwise

A 12-game starter at safety last season for Florida, Riggs had previously started 14 as a cornerback, including 10 in 2011. He missed all but two games of his junior season, 2012, due to a broken foot. That medical redshirt, coupled with his graduation in May, affords the former Gator a final season of collegiate eligibility.

Riggs spent the initial months of that fresh start preparing for Notre Dame's MBA program, all-the-while listening to, or least occasionally in conversation with, the loquacious Russell, Notre Dame's never-quiet cover man.

"No, he never stops talking." Riggs admitted when asked about the gregarious Russell. "That's KeiVarae, he loves to talk, and I appreciate that. It comes with his playing style and I enjoy playing with him.

"We feed off each other. I love his style of play and I'm sure he enjoys mine. He's very vocal, he's a leader out there."

Russell saw from day one what Riggs brings to the squad.

"Excitement, playmaking ability. The will to be the best," said Russell of Riggs. "He has the same will I have, constantly wanting to work on his craft. It's an attack mentality. Playing in the SEC, you can tell. Those SEC guys are defined by an aggressive nature, tenacity, you see that, you see that in this guy. He zeros in and just wants to make plays on the ball."

Those plays will be expected of Riggs as a left cornerback (Russell is the right) and the challenging nickel role, one that has proved vexing for Irish defensive backs over the last two seasons.

"I've been getting work at the nickel and Matthias (Farley) has been my mentor at the nickel here," Riggs offered. "I played a lot of nickel at Florida, since my freshmen year, but it's a different system and Matthias and coach (Bob) Elliott have been very beneficial to me through the whole process.

"I enjoy playing it. I'm pretty savvy in the slot, being able to have my way. The hardest part for me is that the rules are different than the rules I had at Florida."

One rule won't change, whether at Florida, Notre Dame, or at the professional level to which Riggs aspires:

The best man will win.

"It's just competition, it comes with the game," said Riggs of serving as a mentor to younger players while attempting to win the jobs they likewise covet. "Although you're competing with each other, you still want to better each other. And at the end of the day if you're bettering each other, the team is going to be better." Top Stories