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Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 25 Philip Riley, sophomore cornerback


Listed measurements: 5-foot-11 ½, 202 pounds.2022-23 year, eligibility: A sophomore, Riley has all four seasons of eligibility remaining.Depth Chart: Notre Dame has its pair of starting cornerbacks in senior Cam Hart and junior Clarence Lewis with fifth-year TaRiq Bracy starting at nickel back and filling in wherever else needed otherwise. The exact two-deep behind that trio is murky, with only early-enrolled freshman Jaden Mickey separating himself from the pack of five other freshmen or sophomores with four years of eligibility remaining, including Riley.Recruiting: Riley made three commitments during his recruitment, bookending a USC dalliance with Irish pledges. The yo-yo nature of his decision-making was understandable given the pandemic prevented him from making an official visit to South Bend, at first committing without making any visit whatsoever. The Washington native then reconsidered that choice and opted to stay closer to his original home, hence the Los Angeles thought, before he did finally make an unofficial visit to Notre Dame.

That swayed him in the end, to the frustration of other Pac-12 powers Oregon and Washington. (Insert some currently necessary acknowledgment of “Pac-12-for-now powers …")

Riley appeared in four games in 2021, though he did not record a statistic in those appearances.


“Though Notre Dame has made a habit of playing freshman cornerbacks the last five years (Julian Love, Bracy, Lewis), it is unlikely Riley sees extended work this season. If he does, it would indicate a broader failure in the secondary than even most worst-case scenarios would worry about, something more akin to 2016’s rash of injuries that forced Love, Troy Pride and Donte Vaughn all into action.

“Irish special teams coordinator Brian Polian did include Riley among players working as punt returners this spring. If he impresses there in August, he could get a real chance to impact games this fall. …

“Notre Dame’s cornerback depth remains murky in Mike Mickens’ second season as its coach. Bracy could return in 2022, and Hart has plenty of time remaining at his second position (originally a receiver), but Riley represents a truer cornerback than the latter and has less mental scar tissue than the former.

“He has more length than expected from a sub-six-foot defensive back, and his ball instincts are more apparent than most of his positional competition in South Bend.

“Riley will have an opportunity to impress down the line. If Bracy heads elsewhere in 2022, Riley’s first chance could come at nickel back, but if not, the nature of the position mandates options will be needed in time.”

Truly, who knows.

The cloudiness among Notre Dame’s reserve cornerbacks will not clear until either a two-deep depth chart loses what will likely be a few “OR” designations or the Irish need to turn to a substitute as a starter and the rubber thus meets the world.

Too little has been seen from Riley and classmates Ryan Barnes and Chance Tucker to ascertain anything else, not to mention Mickey, early-enrolled freshman Jayden Bellamy and incoming freshman Benajmin Morrison.

Riley has some of the best fundamentals of the group: Quick hips, strong route recognition and a frame that has added muscle over the year. But if that does not translate on the practice field, not to mention Saturdays, then he may get passed over quickly.

At the least, a reserve cornerback should be counted on for plenty of special teams work.

Past recruiting failures led to an overstocking of the cornerback pool in South Bend. Six players have all four years of eligibility remaining. Two more have three seasons yet available, and those are the two starters.

This overstocking has not slowed, nor should it. The trenches still define a college football team’s floor — and thus, Notre Dame’s offensive and defensive lines should carry it to a strong season — but the perimeter sets the ceiling. The Irish need a collection of impressive cornerbacks, and that has not been the case for nearly a decade, if not longer. Thus, the pair of consensus four-stars committing in the last week: Micah Bell and Christian Gray.

Riley may become one of Notre Dame’s starters in 2024. Maybe Hart and Lewis hold all comers at bay until 2025. Whenever that time comes, the point is, Riley will have competition and lots of it.

From Blake Grupe to Braden Lenzy, the offseason countdown begins anew
No. 99 Blake Grupe, kicker, Arkansas State transfer
No. 99 Rylie Mills, junior defensive lineman, a tackle now playing more at end

No. 98 Tyson Ford, early-enrolled freshman, a defensive tackle recruited as a four-star end
No. 97 Gabriel Rubio, sophomore defensive tackle, still ‘as wide as a Volkswagen’
No. 92 Aidan Keanaaina, a junior defensive tackle who tore his ACL in March
No. 91 Josh Bryan, sophomore kicker
No. 91 Aiden Gobaira, early-enrolled freshman defensive end, four-star recruit
No. 90 Alexander Ehrensberger, junior defensive end, a German project nearing completion
No. 88 Mitchell Evans, sophomore tight end
No. 87 Michael Mayer, junior tight end, likely All-American
No. 85 Holden Staes, incoming freshman tight end
No. 84 Kevin Bauman, junior tight end
No. 83 Jayden Thomas, sophomore receiver, former four-star recruit
No. 80 Cane Berrong, sophomore tight end coming off an ACL injury
No. 79 Tosh Baker, one of four young Irish offensive tackles
No. 78 Pat Coogan, sophomore center, recovering from a meniscus injury
No. 77 Ty Chan, incoming offensive tackle, former four-star recruit
No. 76 Joe Alt, sophomore starting left tackle
No. 75 Josh Lugg, sixth-year offensive lineman, likely starting right guard
No. 74 Billy Schrauth, early-enrolled freshman offensive guard coming off foot surgery
No. 73 Andrew Kristofic, senior offensive tackle-turned-guard
No. 72 Caleb Johnson, sophomore offensive tackle, former Auburn pledge
No. 68 Michael Carmody, junior offensive line utility man
No. 65 Michael Vinson, long snapper, ‘Milk’
No. 65 Chris Smith, defensive tackle, Harvard transfer
No. 59 Aamil Wagner, consensus four-star incoming freshman offensive tackle
No. 58 Ashton Craig, incoming freshman center
No. 57 Jayson Ademilola, fifth-year defensive tackle, coming off shoulder surgery
No. 56 Joey Tanona, early-enrolled offensive guard coming off a concussion
No. 56 Howard Cross, senior defensive tackle with heavy hands, and that’s a good thing
No. 55 Jarrett Patterson, fifth-year offensive lineman, three-year starting center, captain
No. 54 Jacob Lacey, senior defensive tackle, now lighter and a starter
No. 54 Blake Fisher, sophomore starting right tackle, ‘ginormous’
No. 52 Zeke Correll, senior center or perhaps left guard
No. 52 Bo Bauer, fifth-year linebacker, Ironman
No. 50 Rocco Spindler, sophomore offensive guard
No. 48 Will Schweitzer, sophomore end-turned-linebacker
No. 47 Jason Oyne, sophomore defensive end-turned-tackle
No. 44 Junior Tuihalamaka, early-enrolled freshman linebacker, consensus four-star recruit
No. 44 Alex Peitsch, junior long snapper
No. 42 Nolan Ziegler, early-enrolled freshman linebacker, Irish legacy
No. 41 Donovan Hinish, incoming freshman defensive tackle, Kurt’s brother
No. 40 Joshua Burnham, early-enrolled freshman linebacker-turned-end
No. 34 Osita Ekwonu, senior Vyper end coming off an Achilles injury
No. 31 NaNa Osafo-Mensah, senior defensive end
No. 29 Matt Salerno, fifth-year receiver, punt returner, former walk-on
No. 28 TaRiq Bracy, fifth-year starting nickel back
No. 27 JD Bertrand, senior linebacker recovering from a plaguing wrist injury
No. 20 Jadarian Price, early-enrolled freshman running back with a ruptured Achilles
No. 9 Eli Raridon, incoming freshman tight end with a torn ACL

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