Four-star cornerback Philip Riley flips verbal commitment from USC to Notre Dame

Carter Karels
South Bend Tribune

Philip Riley committed to Notre Dame in May before flipping his verbal pledge to USC in September.

Then on Monday, Riley’s winding recruitment road took another turn. The four-star cornerback from Bloomingdale High in Valrico, Fla., rescinded his commitment from the Trojans and re-committed to the Irish.

By pledging to Notre Dame again, Riley elevated the Irish to 20 commits in their 2021 recruiting class. Three-star cornerbacks Chance Tucker and Ryan Barnes also are in Notre Dame’s class.

If his status in the recruiting rankings holds, Riley will join Tee Shepard (2012), Cole Luke (2013), Shaun Crawford (2015) and Isaiah Rutherford (2019) as the only Notre Dame cornerback signees in the Brian Kelly Era to finish ranked among the top 250 overall players in their classes on both 247Sports and Rivals.

247Sports ranks Riley as its No. 13 cornerback and No. 219 overall player in the 2021 class. Rivals slates Riley No. 24 at the position and No. 241 overall.

The Irish coaching staff never stopped recruiting Riley following his decommitment. Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly, defensive coordinator Clark Lea, special teams coordinator Brian Polian and cornerbacks coach Mike Mickens continued to communicate with Riley, he said.

Look for Riley to make his pledge official during the three-day early signing period next month before enrolling a semester early in January.

“I’m going to sign as soon as I can and definitely will enroll at Notre Dame," Riley told the Tribune. "This is my home.”

Riley landed a scholarship offer from Notre Dame on March 25. At the time, he considered Virginia Tech his favorite school. The Irish coaching staff convinced Riley to forget about the Hokies. Riley said their message and Notre Dame’s tradition and academics appealed to him.

On Sept. 25, however, Riley decommitted from Notre Dame before pledging to USC three days later. The Florida recruit from the West Coast said he felt he would have been out of place in the Midwest. Riley grew up in the Tacoma, Wash., area and still has family there. He transferred to Bloomingdale after finishing his sophomore season at Lakes High in Lakewood, Wash. He had not visited South Bend.

On the week of Halloween, Riley trekked to Notre Dame for the first time. That visit helped him reconsider.

"It was super diverse," Riley said. "I got to see a lot of people from different backgrounds. That was definitely a key moment for me in that visit.”

There were clues that Riley considered a flip back to the Irish. He removed from his social media pages information that denoted his commitment to USC. He glaringly became pro-Irish on social media in recent weeks. The opposite happened when he decommitted from Notre Dame and pledged to USC.

Virginia Tech, Clemson, Florida State, Miami, Oregon, Texas and Penn State were among other schools that offered Riley.

Of the 34 recruits who have decommitted from Notre Dame during Kelly's 11-year tenure, five pledged to the Irish a second time: defensive ends Stephon Tuitt (class of 2011) and Aaron Lynch (2011), wide receivers Braden Lenzy (2018) and Deion Colzie (2021), and Riley (2021).

Tuitt (Georgia Tech), Lynch (Florida State), Lenzy (Oregon) and Riley (USC) all spent time verbally committed to another class. Colzie, Riley and offensive guard Greg Crippen comprise Notre Dame’s three decommitments this cycle.

The Irish decided they did not want Crippen in their class after accepting his pledge in March 2019. Colzie committed to Notre Dame in October 2019 before decommitting in March and pledging to the Irish again on Sept. 28.

Notre Dame is expected to add a few more recruits this cycle. Roster attrition seemed to free up more spots in this Irish class than previously expected. Adding a few more four-star recruits could launch Notre Dame’s class to top 10 status.

Rivals and 247Sports rank the class No. 10 and No. 13 nationally, respectively.

Safety Titus Mokiao-Atimalala, cornerbacks Ceyair Wright and Theran Johnson, defensive end Kelvin Gilliam, linebacker Kahanu Kia, running backs Donovan Edwards and Byron Cardwell, and offensive tackle Caleb Johnson are among the remaining targets to follow.

“They are not done,” 247Sports' director of recruiting Steve Wiltfong told the Tribune earlier this month. “How they finish, I’m not completely sure. But I think they are going to land a few more. And then obviously in 2022 again, Notre Dame has got a chance to finish with a top 10 class this year and they have a shot to really get some roots down to make sure they do that again next year.”

Notre Dame cornerback signee Philip Riley.