One of the defensive standouts in Florida’s preseason camp so far has been junior safety Cody Riggs. That probably comes as a surprise to some. When it was announced before the spring that Riggs, a former starter at cornerback, was moving to safety, there were many skeptics wondering how a guy Riggs’ size (5-foot-9, 188 pounds) would be able to hold his own at safety, a position with a great deal of physical demands.
Well, as it turns out, Riggs is a perfect fit for what the Gators are looking for in at least one of the safety positions.
Last season, the safeties (Matt Elam and Josh Evans) were big and physical and very good defending the run. At times, Elam played more like a linebacker than a safety the way he would crowd the line of scrimmage to stuff the run or blitz.
Riggs is a safety in a different mold, one whose cover skills are his strength. With UF playing so many offenses that spread the field with four and five wide receivers, Riggs has a chance to have a breakout year because of his ability to match-up against receivers in one-on-one situations.
“He’s instinctive, plays the ball really well down the field,” Coach Will Muschamp said. “Nowadays. … we were over 80 percent nickel and dime last year (in the secondary). We don’t face many two-back run teams that are true two-back teams like we are.
“You need to be able to have a guy that can cover in the slot and cover and play man-to-man, and he does that well. We’ve got some flexibility back there.”
Riggs is not the only former starting cornerback who could end up seeing playing time at safety this season. Jaylen Watkins worked at safety some in the spring and will be called on to play there again if UF’s young safeties struggle with consistency in camp.
There’s a chance that at times this season against passing teams, the Gators could conceivably line up four true cornerbacks in the secondary — Riggs, Watkins, Marcus Roberson and Loucheiz Purifoy.