Notre Dame Football: Florida Gators

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- The biggest addition to Notre Dame's roster visited campus shortly after national signing day, the sub-zero temperatures offering a less-than-warm greeting to the Sunshine State native in search of a new home.

"I don't even know what that feels like," Cody Riggs said of the memory.

Cold weather was about the only thing Riggs was unfamiliar with upon his arrival from Florida. The graduate transfer has played cornerback, nickelback and safety. He has defended passes against the best of the SEC and has gained first-hand lessons from a family long on football lineage.

[+] EnlargeCody Riggs
Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsCody Riggs is a graduate transfer from Florida who will start at cornerback.
Now he's the man the Irish are looking at to stabilize their last line of defense, a redshirt senior who had already locked down a starting corner job before KeiVarae Russell and three others got suspended as part of the school's academic probe.

"He clearly is our top guy," head coach Brian Kelly said, adding, "He's been more than advertised for us. He's been a leader, he's been accountable, he's been a guy that can play multiple positions. It's going to be difficult now to play him in multiple positions."

Riggs' transfer was borne by academic desires as much as football ones. He earned his undergraduate degree as a Gator in family, youth and community sciences. He enrolled this summer in Notre Dame's master of science in management program.

He was thrown into an accelerated program of a different kind this summer as he tried to learn a new defense, which helped for the simple fact that his fellow teammates were also still adapting to new coordinator Brian VanGorder.

"I was struggling this summer because I just got here, it was rough," Riggs said. "But I think I'm very comfortable with it, with the terms. The language was completely different and that was the hardest part for me. But now that the language is down I communicate better with the coaches and explain to them what I don't understand and why is this that."

Added VanGorder: "He was at Florida with Coach (Will) Muschamp. He’s been through a lot of scheme work in his career. His value to us has been invaluable, so to speak. It’s been great to have him.”

Riggs will also have a chance to boost the Irish's anemic punt return game, as Kelly anointed him and running back Greg Bryant as his primary punt returners. Riggs was a kick returner at St. Thomas Aquinas (Fla.) High and spent plenty of time on special teams while in Gainesville, but never as the punt returner, a role he asked about upon his arrival to Notre Dame. He said he is relishing the chance to get another 10 chances or so to impact each game.

Regardless, Riggs' role will be huge, especially with Russell not currently in the picture. At Florida, the 5-foot-9, 185-pounder tallied 107 total tackles (nine for loss), two sacks, an interception, a forced fumble and eight pass break-ups in a variety of roles.

"You can see that he's not afraid of anything," defensive backs coach Kerry Cooks said. "He's played in the SEC, he's played against high-level wide receivers and quarterbacks for years. He's got awesome leadership; doesn't say a lot vocally, but he comes to work every day, preparation is on point. So I'm very, very pleased. I told him that he's the best free-agent pickup that I've had since I've been in college football."

Riggs' father is former All-Pro NFL running back Gerald Riggs. His brother, Gerald Jr., starred as a running back Tennessee before playing briefly in the NFL and CFL. His uncle, Bobby Brown, also played briefly in the NFL, after starring as a receiver at Notre Dame.

Riggs was familiar with the Irish thanks to that connection, and thanks to his old Florida roommate, current Boston College quarterback Tyler Murphy. Murphy's father, Peter, is a die-hard Notre Dame fan who gave Riggs a call shortly after he landed with the Irish.

"Seeing Cody go to Notre Dame and get a chance to get his MBA there and play there, me and my dad are both excited for him and happy for him," Tyler Murphy said. "We're looking forward to seeing him finish off his career and have a great season."

Notebook: IMG 7v7 Championship 

June, 23, 2014
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BRADENTON, Fla. -- The IMG 7v7 National Championship held at IMG Academy over the weekend featured some of the top 7-on-7 teams from all over the country and even a few teams from Canada. The event, which included 12 prospects ranked in the top 50 of the ESPN 300, showcased some of the best talent you will find in a single tournament. Led by Alabama verbal commits Calvin Ridley and Shawn Burgess-Becker, the Florida Fire from South Florida defeated Tampa’s Unsigned Preps 20-18 in the championship game to take home the title.

Quarterbacks shine

There were several high-profile quarterbacks in attendance, and they lived up to the hype for the most part. Deondre Francois, who recently transferred to IMG Academy, made numerous impressive throws. The 6-foot-2, 188-pound signal-caller has a top three of Oregon, Auburn and Florida State and is planning to make his decision at the end of July.

College coaches and recruits are always quick to proclaim their school as the best at developing certain positions. Whether it’s DBU or Linebacker U, recruits have a definite perception of which school stands out at their position.

Prospects from across the country were polled on which school has been the best at developing each position over the past 10 years. Did your school make the list?


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Recruiting the right quarterback means a tremendous amount to every college football program.

In the Class of 2015, the race has been on for months for programs in need of signal-callers.

With the calendar having turned to June, there are more than 55 quarterbacks who have given verbal commitments to FBS programs.

Most recently, Florida snagged West Coast prospect Sheriron Jones over the weekend. In all, 39 of 62 programs in the Power Five conferences have QB commitments, and more are on the way.


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The state of Georgia is loaded in both the 2015 and 2016 classes.

In the 2015 class, the linebacker position is one of strength, as a number of rangy, athletic prospects -- highlighted by ESPN 300 prospects Adonis Thomas and Roquan Smith -- are available.

Five schools made the final cut on Thursday night for Thomas, one of the nation's top prospects.


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States of strength: Texas RBs 

May, 15, 2014
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When it comes to running backs, the state of Texas is loaded. Ten running backs represent the Lone Star State in the ESPN 300. Of those 10, five are committed. A total of seven running backs in the state have reported FBS commitments.

ESPN 300 RBs from the state:

No. 50 Ronald Jones II: Ranked the nation’s No. 3 running back, Jones is an explosive, game-changing back who -- as scary as it might sound -- will only get better. Jones committed to Oklahoma State on April 6 and finished his junior season with more than 2,400 rushing yards and 39 touchdowns.


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Getting to know Jashon Cornell 

April, 18, 2014
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video Throughout this recruiting cycle, RecruitingNation will profile a number of ESPN 300 prospects in the 2015 class, including an inside look at the prospect, his recruitment, a scouting report and what college program could benefit when he ultimately makes his decision.

When you attend a school as prestigious as Cretin-Derham Hall, as No. 16-ranked recruit Jashon Cornell does, you are bound to have connections. The Minnesota school has produced its share of college and NFL players over the years, including associate dean of students Marcus Freeman, who played for Notre Dame.


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California has always fed the Pac-12 a majority of its recruits, as Southern California in particular is the recruiting hotbed for the conference. But as the Golden State is arguably the most talent-rich state in the country when it comes to high school football, programs outside the Pac-12 haven't been content to sit back and watch conference teams load up on California recruits.

Television, the internet and social media have all helped out-of-conference programs invade California looking for recruits, but nothing has aided those programs more than good old-fashioned effort, according to Fresno (Calif.) Central East assistant coach Tony Perry.


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A wild week for the West's best 

January, 31, 2014
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Plenty of attention will be paid to the West on signing day, as four of the region's top eight recruits are set to announce their commitments on Wednesday. That number -- which includes the top-ranked uncommitted prospect in Adoree' Jackson (Gardena, Calif./Serra) -- dwarfs that of the top eight prospects in any of the other regions.

But before each makes a huge statement on signing day, all made some noise this week, as this region and the Pac-12 conference sets up for a very interesting day on Feb. 5.


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ATH McKenzie recaps Ole Miss visit 

January, 26, 2014
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Three programs remain in the hunt for one of the nation's top senior risers, ESPN 300 wide receiver and returner Isaiah McKenzie (Plantation, Fla./American Heritage).

The nation's No. 286-ranked prospect took an official visit to Florida last weekend, and this weekend visited Oxford, Miss., to take in Ole Miss.


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Three days of practice are now in the books and overall execution was sharper as the players begin to move into final preparations for the Under Armour All-America Game on Thursday. The productivity of the players picked up as did the speed of the play, and they’re continuing to think less and display their natural ability more. It was a physical day, with the pads popping and some big hits throughout the practice. Here are some of the highlights.

Top performers


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As expected, Day 2 at the Under Armour All-America practices were smoother, more concise and much more productive. The players are now starting to think less and play more. Natural ability is starting to come to the forefront, which allows for them to be more productive. There have been fewer dropped passes, fewer misses by the QBs and the offensive lines are starting to jell quicker than expected. Perhaps the most impressive thing about this group is there have not been any true letdowns. They have stepped up and been as advertised almost top to bottom for both squads. Let’s hit the highlights of the day:

Top performers

WR Cameron Sims (Monroe, La./Ouachita Parish): Sims might not wow anyone with his 40-yard dash time, but it may not matter. Sims is so similar to Mike Evans at Texas A&M. He just makes plays. He has extremely long arms and is outstanding when in contested matchups. The ball will look like it is uncatchable and then next thing you know he jumps out of nowhere, extends and makes a play and the defender is left scratching his head. When it comes down to it, the QBs for Team Highlight can trust that if they need to throw it up, Sims will make a play. The most basic thing about the position is catching the football and Sims has no problem doing that.


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Manziel or Winston? Prospects weigh in

December, 29, 2013
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ORLANDO, Fla. -- There are many topics of conversation among prospects playing in the 2014 Under Armour All-America Game. One of them centers around the past two Heisman Trophy winners.

On Saturday, upon checking in for the prestigious game, a number of prospects weighed in on a hot topic involving Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel and Florida State's Jameis Winston.

If they had to choose between the two, who would the players take as their college quarterback? Here are their responses:

[+] EnlargeMarlon Humphrey
Courtesy of IntersportNo. 9 overall prospect Marlon Humphrey likes how Johnny Manziel makes others around him better.
Five-star cornerback Marlon Humphrey (Hoover, Al./Hoover High): Ah man, I think I’m going to have to go with Johnny Manziel. I just feel like he kind of made a team out of nothing. Jameis Winston is a great quarterback too, but he doesn’t have the scrambling skills that Manziel has. This year, you could tell that his teams defense wasn’t that good, the players around him weren’t as good, but he kept making his team better. He’s has the fight in him I would want on my team.

Florida commit and No. 20-ranked Dalvin Cook (Miami/Central High): I would say Jameis Winston. He’s really a pure quarterback, and I think he sets up things more for a running back than Johnny Manziel does.

Auburn running back commit Racean Thomas (Oxford, Al./Oxford High): I would probably pick Jameis Winston. The reason behind that is because he is more of a leader for a young quarterback, and I think he can make his team a more mature team. I really think he would be a great quarterback to play with.

Florida wide receiver commit and No. 28 Ermon Lane (Homestead, Fla./Homestead Senior High): Whew, I don’t know. I think Jameis Winston. I look at how both of them played as a freshman, and I like how Jameis Winston leads his team. He is also more pro-ready than Manziel.

Texas defensive end commit and No. 78-overall Derick Roberson (San Antonio, Texas/William J. Brennan High): I guess I would say Johnny Manziel. I like how he plays with his swagger and confidence the most, so I would probably say him.

Notre Dame commit and No. 76-ranked Tyler Luatua (la Mirada, Calif./La Mirada High): I would take Manziel just because of the way he plays. If he doesn’t have a wide receiver open, he can make plays himself. He can get the ball to his players if and when he wants to, but can also do it on his own when he needs to.

No. 38 overall John Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Long Beach Polytechnic High School): That’s a hard one. As of right now, I would go with Jameis Winston. Overall, he’s a great player. I think Winston has an awesome football IQ. Johnny had his year too, but I think Winston is just a great player. Outstanding.

Dylan Sumner-Gardner: Jameis Winston, man. I feel comfortable with Jameis Winston as my quarterback because he’s smart and accurate. Johnny is accurate too, but Johnny is Johnny. How he runs around, people may get nervous. I would just feel more comfortable with Jameis as my quarterback.

No. 22 overall Laurence Jones (Monroe, La./Neville High): That’s a hard one right there. Let me think ... maybe Johnny Manziel because I don’t think I’ve ever seen a white boy get down like that. It would have to be Johnny Manziel.

Penn State wide receiver commit Chris Godwin (Middletown, De./Middletown High): I think Jameis Winston. I think overall he’s a better passer. I want a quarterback back there that can get me the ball on a consistent basis, but Johnny Manziel is a great player, too. I’m actually a big fan of both of them.

Five-star and Virginia defensive tackle commit Andrew Brown (Chesapeake, VA
Oscar Frommel Smith High)
: Dang, that’s a good question, man. I would go with Jameis Winston. His leadership qualities, coming in as a freshman and doing the things he is doing is definitely uncommon. It just foreshadows what he is going to do in the future, too. He’s already established a great foundation for himself, and I would definitely take him in the future.

Maryland commit Will Ulmer (Washington, D.C./Saint John’s High): I’m going with Johnny Manziel. I think he’s more dynamic, and more of a game-changer. Jameis Winston is a great quarterback too, but you have to think about all the dudes he has around him at FSU -- all the great receivers and good running backs. I would go with Manziel because if you put him on the Florida State team, or a stacked team like that, it would be a scary sight.

One visit remains for No. 7 Jackson 

November, 21, 2013
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With four visits under his belt, Adoree' Jackson (Gardena, Calif./Serra) has one remaining. But there is nothing clear about which school will receive that fifth trip.


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Cornell, No. 1 in 2015 class, narrows list 

November, 20, 2013
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Jashon Cornell (St. Paul, Minn./Cretin Derham-Hall), the No. 1 prospect in the Class of 2015, has narrowed his top list. After much deliberation, Cornell has cut the list of schools in the running down to 15.

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