Notre Dame picked up a huge commitment when it landed Valrico (Flal.) Bloomingdale cornerback Philip Riley. To make it even better, the Irish flipped Riley from arch-rival USC. It's a big victory for first-year cornerbacks coach Mike Mickens.
Riley also had offers from Clemson, Oregon, USC, Texas, Penn State, Florida State, Miami (Fla.), Washington, Virginia Tech, Louisville, West Virginia, Maryland, Iowa, Boston College, Mississippi State, Michigan State, Minnesota, Washington State, Georgia Tech, Texas Tech, Duke, Iowa State, Colorado, Vanderbilt, Oregon State, Kansas and Illinois.
Let's take a look at what the commitment of Riley means for the Notre Dame 2021 class.
The 6-0, 190-pound defensive back is the 20th player to commit to Notre Dame in the 2021 class, and he's the ninth defensive player in the class. Riley joins a secondary class that already has cornerbacks Ryan Barnes and Chance Tucker, and safety Justin Walters.
From a pure numbers standpoint Notre Dame is in good position moving forward at cornerback, so what it needed in the 2021 class is high-upside talents and versatile cover players. Riley is just the kind of high-upside talent Notre Dame needs, he can play multiple positions (see below) and he has the kind of size, strength, athleticism and intelligence combination to push for immediate playing time.
NOTRE DAME FIT
Riley is an intriguing player when it comes to his fit at Notre Dame, and the reason is he projects to so many different spots in the Irish defense. He could play either corner spot, he could thrive in the slot as a nickel player and Riley could also develop into a standout at safety. That kind of versatility is incredibly hard to find.
The 6-0, 190-pound corner is a physical defender in both coverage and as a tackler. He is a highly effective press cornerback, and as he cleans up his transition technique he’ll have the ability to open and run with ease. He can also play off-man and use his instincts to jump routes and break on the football. Those traits fit perfectly with the different ways Notre Dame has used the boundary cornerback the last two seasons.
Riley is extremely effective at block destruction thanks to his size, powerful hands and competitiveness. He takes good angles to the football, he’s a sound tackler and he is smart enough to sniff out quick throws and screens. Riley also shows the ability to jam wideouts as well as the long speed to cover posts. All those traits make him suited for the field corner position.
He has been matched up against some of the South's best wideouts the last two seasons, and he has thrived in those matchups every time.
Finally, Riley’s ability against the run, his foot quickness and his instincts in coverage also fit well in the slot or at safety. The ability to beat blocks is vital to that position in its ideal form, and the fact he’s already 190 pounds and strong means he can put up a fight against bigger players (tight ends) as well. He hasn’t done it on film, but I could see Riley also developing into a strong blitzer, another slot trait.
Having that kind of positional versatility only makes Riley even more valuable. It also increases his odds of competing very early for playing time. Wherever there is a need early on the staff can move him there and expect him to handle the duties at a high level.
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