To get to know Detroit Lions sixth-round pick Theo Riddick, a running back from Notre Dame, I sent five questions to Eric Murtaugh from One Foot Down, SB Nation's Fighting Irish blog. Here's a look at what he had to say about Riddick:
1. Riddick played both running back and wide receiver at Notre Dame. Which position suited him best in your view?
Running back definitely suits him best, especially after watching his senior year unfold. When healthy he was a pretty effective slot receiver and would have been even better if the Irish had better quarterback play. However, as a senior he bulked up a little bit and really showed all the skills necessary to play running back. He ran hard and did a ton of little things that helped Notre Dame win. Seeing as how he didn't play a ton of running back over the course of his four years, he's actually very developed at the position.
2. The Lions are in need of a new return man, and Riddick served as Notre Dame's kick returner in 2009. How did he perform as the returner, and why didn't he continue to be the primary return man for Notre Dame after his freshman season?
Riddick was a solid return man in 2009. He actually broke the school record for most return yards in a season (849, since broken by George Atkinson in 2011), although that is largely due to the Irish defense being so terrible that Theo got a ton of attempts. He didn't stay at kick returner because new head coach Brian Kelly wanted him to focus on learning the slot receiver position and I think the staff wanted a little bit more speed back there. Overall, he was a bright spot on special teams during 2009 and showed fans why he had a bright future.
3. Riddick was described by NFL Network's Mike Mayock, who also announces Notre Dame games for NBC, as more quick than fast. In other words, he doesn't have blazing speed, but it's not like he looks slow out there. Do you think this is an accurate assessment?
Yes, I'd say that's a pretty accurate statement. By the way, Mayock loves to say that about a lot of players! Riddick has always been more of a shake-and-bake runner that works in tight spaces than a speed back who leaves defenders in the dust. His 40 time at the NFL Combine pretty much proved what we saw as fans -- an explosive athlete who just doesn't have that top gear. If he's going to make a living in the NFL as a runner it will be in the first 15 to 20 yards of the line of scrimmage where he can use his burst, vision and toughness to move the chains.
4. Riddick has been mentioned as potentially being a third-down back for the Lions. Based on him playing wide receiver, it's clear he can catch the ball, but how is he in pass protection as a blocker?
Riddick is incredibly well-rounded and was a very strong pass blocker. He shouldn't have any problems in the NFL getting this job done. In fact, in combination with his pass-catching skills, I think he could flourish into a very dangerous third-down back.
5. What one play from his career at Notre Dame best exemplifies Riddick's abilities as a running back?
Ah, that's a tough question. I'd have to say his twisting catch on third-and-8 during the first overtime against Stanford this past season. I know it's not a running play, but it exhibits how Riddick was so clutch and was a multi-dimensional weapon for Notre Dame. It was a poorly thrown ball, but Theo was able to catch it while staying inbounds and taking a hit. On the next play, the Irish scored a touchdown and would go on to hold off Stanford and stay undefeated. That play by Riddick was one of the most underrated on the season.