Cody Riggs hopes to lock down a starting gig

By Adam Silverstein
August 7, 2013

While he has not gone so far as to name starters at the position just yet, Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp went out of his way Monday to praise redshirt junior defensive back Cody Riggs, who is making the transition to full-time safety this season.

Riggs started his college career as a cornerback, the position he grew up playing. He saw action in all 26 games during his freshman and sophomore seasons and even made 10 starts in his second year.

In 2011, Riggs transitioned over to nickel cornerback for Muschamp, played great in the season opener against Bowling Green (seven tackles, pass defense, forced fumble) and was looking good against Texas A&M before leaving the game with a broken foot that would sideline him for the season.

“It was very frustrating because I didn’t even know how I fractured my foot. It was just in the middle of the game, I told them something was wrong. I come to find out my foot was broken,” he explained on Tuesday. “It was kind of heartbreaking because we were having such a good season and I had to sit back and watch those guys do the amazing things they did last year.”

Now playing his third different role in the last three seasons, Riggs is catching Muschamp’s eye early during fall camp.

“Cody Riggs has done a good job, Cody has,” he said. “He’s distanced himself.”

The Gators are looking for a pair of starting safeties this season after Matt Elam and Josh Evans left the team following the 2012 campaign. Riggs may be close to locking down one of those jobs. He said that paying close attention to what Elam and Evans did last season is helping him prepare for his new gig.


“I’ve worked on just playing safety, watching Matt and Josh on film, and I think I’ve stepped my game up a lot,” he said. “In addition to watching Matt and Josh, I also watched a lot of film on Earl Thomas, who has a similar body type to mine.

“I watched how he played and watched what made him a great player, and I’m trying to add that to my game. He’s very fast to the ball. He knows what’s going on before the play. He’s a very smart football player. He makes a lot of plays before the ball is even snapped, and I am trying to add that to my game and recognize what the offense is doing before they actually do it.”

Thomas, a first-round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, played safety for Muschamp at Texas. After standing out as a redshirt freshman in 2008, Thomas picked off eight passes and returned two for touchdowns the following season. He was the third defensive back taken in the first 14 picks of the draft that year.

Though Riggs admitted that he would prefer playing cornerback because he is most comfortable at the position, he is adjusting well to safety and credits both his experience last season and being coached up by Muschamp on a daily basis as the reasons why.

“I think that playing safety, it wasn’t as hard just because I played it last year. It wasn’t that hard of a transition because by playing it last year, I got a little taste of it at nickel. Now that I’m playing it in our other packages, it’s not as hard of a transition,” he said.

“It’s always fun working with the head man. He’s a very vocal and very active coach, and I love working with him.”

Riggs is also confident that he has the physical ability and mental aptitude to succeed at his new role.

“I’m very fast. I’m very physical. I’m a smart football player, and I make a lot of calls. I have a good relationship with the other safeties, so when we work together we can do a lot of things,” he said.

While he seems to be the front-runner for one of the two safety jobs, which are interchangeable according to Muschamp, Riggs has plenty of competition. In addition to junior Jabari Gorman and redshirt sophomore Valdez Showers, senior CB Jaylen Watkins will spend time at the position. There are also two freshmen – Marcell Harris and Keanu Neal – that would fit perfectly as strong safeties in Muschamp’s system.

“They look good. Keanu and Marcell, they look very good,” Riggs said. “They’re still young, so they’re learning the defense, but they’ll be really good players in the future.”

No matter who ends up playing next to Riggs – or in the spot he is standing in right now – Muschamp needs to see major improvement from the position before the 2013 campaign kicks off on Aug. 31 against Toledo.

“We got to be more consistent,” he said. “We’ve got to get better. We got to get more consistent communication, playmaking ability, leveraging the ball in the run game, directing some traffic on the back end.”

3 Comments

  1. Brendon says:

    Hey Adam,

    What’s the deal with Marcus Maye? He seems to have fallen off the map despite all of his teammates speaking very highly of him.

    Thanks for all the great work on the blog! You’re my go to for Gator news.

    Go Gators

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