Notre Dame could corner the market on Riggs

ERIC HANSEN
South Bend Tribune

The first time Cody Riggs set foot on the Notre Dame campus, at age 5, he created a little bit of a stir by staying in a women’s dorm.

His next visit will likely be a tad more conventional and could be infinitely more impactful, for the now-impending University of Florida transfer — and for the Irish football program.

Riggs’ uncle, former Notre Dame wide receiver Bobby Brown, confirmed Wednesday night mutual interest between the ND coaching staff and the standout defensive back, who had the Irish as a finalist four years ago before eventually signing with the Gators.

“We were supposed to take a trip there (Wednesday), but we couldn’t get it to work out,” Brown said. “He’s still in class. He’s also studying for the GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test), and there was no guarantee he would get back by Thursday. Our hope now is to come Sunday night, visit with the team and coaches Monday and get him back to Florida by Tuesday.”

Brown’s sister and Riggs’ mother, Kim Armenteros, and stepfather Alex Armenteros are hoping their schedules align to come to South Bend as well.

If all goes well, the 5-foot-9, 190-pounder from St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., could put the finishing touches on a grad school-style transfer that would put him in the ND classroom in June and on the field in the fall for his final season of college eligibility.

It would be only the second time Notre Dame was on the receiving end of the fifth-year, no-waiting period transfer. Punter Alex Wulfeck came from Wake Forest last June as a walk-on and walked away after the Pinstripe Bowl on Dec. 29 with the same status.

Riggs presumably would pick up ND’s lone remaining scholarship and put the Irish at the NCAA max of 85. That opening was created when seldom-used offensive lineman Bruce Heggie recently opted to take a grad school-style transfer himself, to Ball State.

Stanford, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Boston College, Wisconsin, Duke and Northwestern are some of the other schools that got involved once Riggs surprised the Florida coaching staff a week ago with his decision to exit the roster with a year of eligibility left.

Originally reported was that Riggs, a starting safety last season for the Gators, was making the move because he wanted to again play cornerback, the position at which he spent his first two seasons of eligibility. But Brown said the decision to leave Florida was driven by academics. ND’s business school remains a lure.

The landing spot, though. will encompass both academics and athletics, as both Riggs’ aspirations and talent point toward an NFL future. An explosive leaper with elite speed, Riggs is open to playing either safety or cornerback at his new school.

The depth chart and Kelly’s size preferences at safety would make corner the most likely destination if ND becomes the next stop. The Irish return two-year sophomore starter KeiVarae Russell at one corner, but lost starter Bennett Jackson to graduation.

Freshmen Cole Luke and Devin Butler, key backups in 2013, would also be in the mix to move up. Redshirted freshman Rashad Kinlaw, incoming freshman Nick Watkins and junior Jalen Brown are the other corners on the roster.

New Irish staff addition Brian VanGorder could become the fourth defensive coordinator Riggs has played for in his college career. Riggs started 13 games at cornerback in 2010 and 2011 before having his 2012 season truncated two games in because of a fractured foot. He received a medical redshirt year, which he’ll now put to use.

Riggs strongly considered joining the Irish roster four years ago when Florida, Tennessee, Georgia and South Carolina were his four finalists. Tennessee is where Riggs’ older brother, Gerald Jr., played as a running back. Their father, Gerald Sr., was a running back in the NFL for 10 seasons, (1982-91), most of them with the Atlanta Falcons, and earned Pro Bowl honors three times.

Former Irish assistants Corwin Brown and Bernie Parmalee were Cody Riggs’ primary recruiters who tried to pull him from Aquinas, a school that sent ND Bobby Brown, four-year starting offensive tackle Sam Young, recently signed freshman wide receiver Corey Holmes and several others in recent years.

Charlie Weis was fired at the end of the 2009 season and Kelly took over in mid-December, right about the time Riggs, a four-star recruit, committed to the Gators.

He took his recruiting visit to ND in October 2009, taking in an Irish 34-27 loss to USC a little more than a decade after coming to visit his uncle, Brown, at Notre Dame and watch him play for the first time.

EHansen@SBTinfo.com

574-235-6112

Twitter: @hansenNDInsider

Four years after Notre Dame lost a recruiting battle to Florida for St. Thomas Aquinas standout Cody Riggs, the defensive back could end up with the Irish. (Photo provided)