MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Shaq Riddick the FCS All-American has been largely anonymous through five games at the FBS level.
Four tackles and one sack: That’s the stat line so far. The sack, coincidentally, came against an FCS opponent, Towson, who West Virginia destroyed 54-0.
Was Riddick overhyped as a graduate transfer from Gardner Webb? Or did he need time to acclimate to the bigger, more skilled linemen he’s encountering?
The ensuing weeks should provide the answer.
Riddick’s playing time increased against Kansas, when the sleek defensive end made his first WVU start in place of the injured Dontrill Hyman. Now comes a three-game stretch against spread offenses, whereby West Virginia coaches hope Riddick can better utilize the burst that made him a pass-rushing terror at the small-college level.
Defensive line coach Tom Bradley suggested Riddick, who arrived in Morgantown this summer, remains eager to prove he belongs.
“He’s very prideful and he wants to be good, which makes him easy to coach. … (But) there’s a process you have to go through—there’s an acceptance process,” Bradley said. “He’s had to walk in here as the new guy.
“Where he might have been able to have his way (against FCS teams), now it’s a different level. He’s facing good people every week and he’s got to get himself ready for that mentally.”
Riddick saw only limited action against Alabama and Oklahoma, matchups where massive offensive tackles and power run games overwhelmed the lanky 6-foot-6, 245-pounder. Beginning with Saturday’s game against Texas Tech (2-3, 0-2), however, Wet Virginia faces a string of pass-happy offenses—the kind Riddick was brought in to disrupt.
Whether it’s pressuring Big 12 passing-touchdown leader David Webb or tracking down receivers on screens, Bradley said Riddick’s athleticism could be crucial against the Red Raiders.
“You have to be able to tackle in space, and you have to be able to tackle on the perimeter,” he said. “I think angles to the ball will be important.”
With seven regular-season games remaining and the timetable for Hyman’s recovery uncertain, Riddick figures to have extended reps to validate his abilities translate to big-time football.
“On the field there are more high-caliber athletes as opposed to being at Gardner-Webb, where I was the shark in a little pond,” he said. “But that’s why I left Gardner-Webb to come here. I wanted it to be known that I wasn’t afraid of competition. I wasn’t scared to take on the best.
“Being a man, you want to be the best. I’m a competitor. Now I’m here and I’m just focused on helping my team win as many as game as I can.”