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Notre Dame's Theo Riddick Breaks out, Robert Hughes Next?


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Sophomore WR Theo Riddick entered Notre Dame's game vs. Michigan State with just four receptions for 52 yards, but finished the contest with a career-high 10 catches for 128 yards and one touchdown. Riddick registered his first career 100-yard receiving game as he posted two grabs for 42 yards on Notre Dame's opening scoring drive of the second half.

He hauled in a 15-yard touchdown pass from QB Dayne Crist with 1:29 to go in the third quarter to tie the score, 21-21. The reception was Riddick's first career touchdown. A converted tailback, Riddick has a lot of speed and tackle-shedding ability. As in next level ability regarding both qualities.

"He's worked really hard. It was really just a matter of time before he was going to be able to play at the level that we thought he could play at," Coach Brian Kelly said.

"He did all the right things, similar to this football team. They're doing the right things. We've got to make a few more plays here and there. We've got to play cleaner in certainly situations. But I think in a large degree, I feel Riddick is what our football team is about, working hard every single day, and you're going to see success," Kelly continued.

With Riddick's breakout game, Kelly is finally getting that much needed production out of the Z-receiver position in his spread-option. Since Golden Tate left, the Irish have had questions about who would step into that slot receiver role and get it done.

I had an interesting conversation with ND Offensive Coordinator Charley Molnar this summer about Riddick's abilities and potential.

"Theo separated himself as a starting receiver in our offense, he's got great ball skills. The reason he might be under the radar is basically he didn't play much offense last year and he didn't get to develop his skills. He's got soft hands and his run after the catch is outstanding," Molnar said.

So now that Theo Riddick is a name everyone knows, who will be the next member of the Fighting Irish to make a name for himself?

How about Robert Hughes, a fullback high on the position lists of NFL scouts? Hughes has posted 1,092 career yards on 253 carries and 13 TDs; and recorded a pair of 100-yd games in '07. He's seen a diminished role in the new offense because the spread-option doesn't really utilize fullbacks. But he's still a very talented senior contributor.

"He's got great vision as a north-south runner. And when he sees a running lane, he'll stick his foot in the ground and puncture a defense," Molnar said.

"Sometimes he'll get pigeon-holed as a role player because he's such a big running back, but he can contribute to this team in so many ways, on special teams, as a blocking back and as a leader on the field and in the locker room," he continued.

Written by Paul M. Banks, President and CEO of The Sports , a Midwest focused webzine. He is also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, the Chicago Tribune's blog network, Walter, the Washington Times Communities, Yardbarker Network, and Fox

You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank and @bigtenguru



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