MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — When defensive end Shaquille Riddick received his release from Gardner-Webb and began mulling destinations for his graduate season, it brought his first taste of recruiting.
He certainly didn’t receive any attention as a high school player in 2010.
“Coming from Akron, Ohio, I was a real under-recruited guy,” Riddick recalled. “I never had an official visit. I didn’t have not one offer from an FBS team or even a I-AA school.
“But Gardner-Webb came on at the end to give me a shot, and I took it.”
Even coaches at the Big South program couldn’t foresee they were landing a future FCS All-American. Though Riddick stood 6-foot-6, he didn’t look like football player.
“I was 175 pounds or 180 on a good day,” he said.
Three seasons and 70 pounds later, he’s recognized as one of the best pass-rushers in the FCS and scheduled to graduate from Gardner Webb this summer, opening up an opportunity for immediate eligibility at the some of the higher-profile programs that paid him zero attention previously.
By the time Riddick committed to West Virginia on Thursday, he held offers from a number of MAC schools and had just received a call from Ohio State, the program he cheered for as a kid.
Riddick didn’t take time to return the Buckeyes’ call, however, feeling West Virginia’s depth chart and scheme offered the prime opportunity to make an immediate impact.
“My main question was ‘Was I going to be able to come on and play right now?’ Because I don’t have time to sit in a program,” he said.
Riddick liked what he heard from Mountaineers defensive coaches, who projected playing him as a weak-side end with frequent one-on-one matchups against offensive tackles. Those conversations made Riddick think about replicating Bruce Irvin’s eye-popping totals as a junior college transfer.
“I feel like I can make a lot of plays in that scheme,” he said. “I grind day-in and day-out to be at the top of my game. I know there’s not too many defensive ends that an do what I do.
“I feel like I can make plays on the FBS level like I did on the FCS level. I don’t have worries when it comes to my skillset.”