Monday, April 13, 2009


April 13, 2009

by Matt Whitfield

Shortly after letting go of Tyrone Willingham as head coach, Notre Dame agreed to a six-year deal with then former New England Patriot’s offensive coordinator Charlie Wies. Despite being heralded as Notre Dame’s savior, Wies’ four years in South Bend have been anything but smooth and the college football odds of the Irish continue to flounder. While things were fine the first two years with Brady Quinn, a Willingham recruit, behind center, things got down right nasty the past two seasons as the Fighting Irish combined for a 10-15 record overall.

This past season tons of fans were calling for Wies to be fired, however, all that talk was quieted with an impressive Hawaii Bowl victory. This upcoming season will be Weis’ fifth season and landing another top recruiting class will no longer cut it. While Jimmy Claussen is no longer just a baby-faced QB, and the top recruiting classes have stock-piled in South Bend for several years now, players and coaches alike both know the sign all too well hanging in the locker room, ‘play like a champion today.’ Anything less than that won’t be accepted this season in South Bend and could ultimately lead to the end of the Weis era.

NBE had the opportunity to catch-up with New Jersey native and Notre Dame-bound RB Theo Riddick recently to discuss his future at Notre Dame as well as the future of the Fighting Irish football program.

4,026 yards and 52 touchdowns, those are gaudy numbers, they are Riddick’s career high school totals and they prove why he was perhaps New Jersey’s most prized recruit this past season. According to Riddick, who is also a talented basketball player, though, “football came naturally,” and “that’s why it became my first love.”

That natural talent led Riddick to his choice of schools including Boston College, Penn State, West Virginia, Rutgers, Pittsburgh, and Maryland, however, he choose Notre Dame in the end because of it’s academics.

“Overall, academically,” said Riddick of what led him to Notre Dame. “You know you can’t play football forever. It’s a great sport when you go to college, through high school, through Pop Warner, but you know day to day you got to rely on something and with that degree I can do whatever I want.”

Riddick told NBE he took a visit to Notre Dame only once going up there for the Michigan game.

“What stood out so much was that it was a great variety of guys up there,” said Riddick of his impressions from the visit. “It’s not like they just recruit from one state.”

While out there in addition to meeting the entire team and hanging out with several of the players including Jimmy Clausen and Armando Allen, Riddick got to walk on the hollowed grounds of Notre Dame Stadium. Riddick told NBE that, “It was crazy. It was just nuts, man,” said Riddick. “I had visions of Jerome Bettis running through, and everything else, so it was just a great time and I loved it so much.”

Riddick won’t be the only freshman from New Jersey to take to the field this fall either. Notre Dame whose recruiting class was ranked 14th by ESPN, has two other incoming recruits from New Jersey in Tyler Stockton and Carlo Calabrese. Riddick told NBE that he has already connected with the two adding that he’s hung out with both players before. Riddick also added, “us jersey guys you know we love each other, [but] we really don’t get a lot of respect. “

Riddick will be leaving for South Bend June 18 knowing there is stiff competition for the RB spot. Despite there being a number of other RB’s vying for time, Riddick told NBE that he expects to make a contribution, “Whenever, [as] it’s in Gods’ hands, it’s in Coach Weis’ hands, [and] if I can prove I can play, I’ll be on the field.”

Riddick also interestingly enough grew up a Miami Hurricanes fan telling NBE, “I loved the Hurricanes. They were a monster. Growing up [though] you start being realistic with your future, [as] I didn’t really want to go that far, I didn’t want to go that route, but [now] ND is my favorite place.”

Riddick also has a message for the Fighting Irish faithful, “Watch out because we’re up and coming.” Hopefully this holds true, as for Weis’ sake they need to carry off of last years bowl win momentum and impress as they go through a manageable schedule in 2009.



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