It was bound to happen. Players move positions every time there is a coaching change. We got a glimpse of this on Tuesday with a report that rising sophomore Theo Riddick will be moving to wide receiver and competing for playing time in the slot this spring. Riddick made his mark early in his freshman and established himself as the main kick returner and a viable option at halfback. Starting this spring, he will be looking to make his mark at a new position.
The Chicago Tribune’s Brian Hamilton reported the story on his blog on Tuesday with quotes from head coach Brian Kelly citing the need to get more explosive players on the field as the reason for the move.
“We have to get more touches for the three dynamic players at running back,” Kelly said. “We got three really dynamic players that need to get on the field.
“So if you assume that the other guy we have to find room for is Cierre Wood, then if you have Cierre and Theo, somebody’s not going to get a chance to get touches. So somebody had to go to wide receiver. And Theo has the best overall skills. So he’s going to get a chance to compete for that inside slot receiver (spot) right away.”
The move makes a lot of sense. Riddick showed a lot of promise as a freshman tailback. He had a very nice burst and looked like he was about to break a long run at any time. Getting an athlete like that the ball in his hands in the open field in a spread offense makes a lot of sense.
The move could also give a clue as to what Kelly and the staff think of the crop of wide receivers if they are willing to take Riddick out of the backfield and insert him into the receiving corps.
Heading into the spring, the only wide receiver who has a starting spot locked down is Michael Floyd. The junior to be has a stranglehold on the #1 receiver spot at this point with senior Duval Kamara, juniors John Goodman and Deion Walker, and sophomores Shaquelle Evans and Roby Toma all fighting for playing time this spring. Evans, Goodman, and Kamara are likely to battle it out for the #2 spot with Toma and Riddick the more natural candidates for the slot position.
Working in Riddick’s favor here is that he will be coached by the same position coach he had as a frosh in 2009 with Tony Aflord making the move from running backs to wide receiver coach this off-season.
Working against Riddick in his move is his recovery from off-season shoulder surgery. How much he can participate in spring practice could determine how successful of a transition this is for the talented sophomore.
Cierre Wood didn’t record a snap as a freshman, but it seems like the new staff is pretty high on him based on Kelly’s comments. Coming out of high school, Wood was seen as the more highly regarded prospect by most recruiting services, but he got passed on the depth chart pretty early in camp by Riddick and didn’t see the field as a true freshman. It looks like that could change in a hurry under the new regime. This too makes sense since his game should fit in perfectly with the spread offense.
It is also interesting that Kelly mentioned Riddick, Wood, and undoubtedly Armando Allen (the report didn’t make mention of Allen by name). What this means for Robert Hughes and Jonas Gray remains to be seen. Hughes and Gray were the #2 and 3 backs for most of the season. Where they now fit into the plans of Kelly and the new staff is unclear at this point.
There’s going to be a lot of positions up for grabs this spring and the back up running back and slot receiver positions just got a little more interesting.