Riggs makes it official, will join Notre Dame football program

ERIC HANSEN
South Bend Tribune

A long travel day and a side order of illness Tuesday didn’t detour Cody Riggs’ transfer to Notre Dame.

It only postponed the finishing touches a little bit.

On Wednesday the University of Florida standout defensive back committed to spending his final season of college football eligibility at ND. He’ll finish his degree work in Gainesville, Fla., in May, enroll at ND in June, and hope to make a big enough impression on the field in August to perhaps grab the vacant starting cornerback role opposite junior-to-be KeiVarae Russell.

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly confirmed Wednesday morning that Riggs signed a scholarship agreement with the Irish.

"Cody Riggs is an outstanding player," Kelly said in a statement. "He played a ton of football at Florida, having started at both safety and cornerback. Cody definitely brings veteran leadership and versatility to our team and defense.

"He will help us immediately but, more importantly, Cody is a great kid with a tremendous focus on both football and academics. His decision to complete his collegiate playing career and pursue a graduate degree at the University of Notre Dame speaks volumes about both our program and university."

Because it’s a grad school-style transfer, the Fort Lauderdale, Fla. product won’t have to sit out the usual one-year period imposed by the NCAA. His addition to the Irish roster brings Notre Dame up to the 85-scholarship limit.

Riggs started all 12 games at safety for the Gators in 2013 on a defense that finished eighth nationally in pass-efficiency defense. The Irish ranked 39th among the 123 FBS schools last season.

For his career, he has 107 total tackles, nine tackles for loss and two sacks. Riggs also has an interception, forced fumble and eight pass breakups.

The 5-foot-9, 190-pounder is open to playing either safety or cornerback, but the best fit with Notre Dame appears to be corner, the position he played at Florida as a freshman and sophomore. Riggs missed all but the first two games of the 2012 season with a fractured foot. He later received a medical redshirt year from the NCAA.

“This is an outstanding addition for Notre Dame,” CBS Sports Network recruiting analyst Tom Lemming said. “He’s as talented as any cornerback on ND’s roster, and that’s now a position group suddenly with a lot of very good players and experience.

“Riggs adds to that. He’s very athletic and very smart. He doesn’t make many mistakes. He’s a very good field general in getting people lined up in the right places. His starting experience is only going to help Notre Dame.”

Riggs visited campus Monday and got a taste of South Bend’s winter weather along with what academic and athletic life would be like at ND. His uncle, former Irish wide receiver Bobby Brown, and stepfather, Alex Armenteros, accompanied him during the visit.

"I am very thankful for this opportunity," Riggs said. "I fully intend to make the most of this opportunity by not only giving my absolute best effort, but also leading by example both on and off the field.

"Being on campus, meeting with the academic personnel and interacting with the Notre Dame players helped me dot the I's and cross the T's on what has been the toughest decision of my life.

“I am excited about working hard in the classroom and expanding my professional network in pursuit of a graduate degree from Notre Dame. I am equally excited to contribute on the field and make some big plays to help the team win games."

Riggs surprised the Gator coaches on Feb. 5 when he told them of his intention to transfer. He and head coach Will Muschamp reportedly left on good terms, but Riggs acknowledged there was some resentment elsewhere in the program.

He has maintained from the start, even before ND was in his crosshairs, that the decision to leave Gainesville was driven by academics. According to Brown, Stanford, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Boston College, Wisconsin, Duke and Northwestern are some of the other schools that got involved once Riggs was granted his release from Florida.

Both Riggs and Brown starred at national prep power St. Thomas Aquinas High, which has been a strong football talent supplier to ND in recent years. Incoming freshman wide receiver Corey Holmes is the latest STA football standout to matriculate to Notre Dame.

Riggs was also a standout in track and field at St. Thomas. He was a three-time state champion in the 300-meter hurdles, with the third of those coming after STA moved up to the state’s largest division in track (Class 4A). The Raiders captured the boys state title in each of those years (2008, 2009, 2010).

Riggs also won the Class 3A long jump championship as a junior and finished fourth twice in his other seasons on the team. He was a runner-up in the 110 high hurdles in 2009 and ran on three 4x400 relay teams that placed in the top five at the state meet.

His father is former All-Pro NFL running back Gerald Riggs, and his older brother, Gerald Riggs Jr., played at running back at the University of Tennessee.

Riggs will have plenty of competition at the cornerback spot, as sophomores-to-be Cole Luke and Devin Butler each saw significant playing time in reserve and/or specialty roles last season. Highly touted freshman Nick Watkins joins the depth chart in June. Redshirted freshman Rashad Kinlaw and senior-to-be Jalen Brown also return.

EHansen@SBTinfo.com

574-235-6112

Twitter: @hansenNDInsider

Florida defensive back Cody Riggs will spend his final year of college eligibility playing for Notre Dame in 2014. (Florida Communications photo/JAY METZ).