Riggs not slowed by size

Cody Riggs isn't a traditional safety. His 5-9, 184-pound frame keeps him from playing in the box to stop the run as often as other safeties, but what he lacks in size, Riggs make up for with his knowledge of the defense and aggressive mindset. The Gators will need him to take one of the starting safety positions after losing both from last year, and Riggs is already turning heads in camp.

"I'm not scared of anybody," Riggs said, answering a question about his size. "I'm very fast. I'm very physical. I'm a smart football player. I make a lot of calls. I have a great relationship with the other safeties, so when we work together, we can do a lot of things."

The Gators won't ask him to play the role that Matt Elam did last year. He won't be that safety that lines up in the box and is a factor in the run game, but that doesn't mean the redshirt junior won't be effective for Florida.

He was starting to settle into his role at the start of the 2012 season. The depth at cornerback last season pushed Riggs into the nickel spot with occasional reps at safety. He broke his foot during the second week of the season against Texas A&M and never returned to the field, instead earning a medical redshirt.

"It was very frustrating," Cody Riggs said. "I didn't even know how I fractured my foot. It was just the middle of the game, and I told them, ‘something is wrong.' Come to find out, my foot was broke. It was heartbreaking because we were having such a good season and I had to sit back and watch those guys do all those things they did last year."

Instead of pouting, Riggs used the season of recovery to learn. He spent plenty of time in the film room, watching the two games he had on tape and trying to correct the mistakes.

"It's tough to sit there and watch," Riggs said. "You learn to appreciate the game a lot more, especially when you sit out and we have a season like we had where we go to the Sugar Bowl. It was frustrating to watch, but I was the number one fan."

The film study poured into the offseason. Riggs knew he'd be spending his time exclusively at safety and wanted to be prepared. To see how the role is best played, Riggs turned on some tape of former Texas safety Earl Thomas, who played it to perfection in Muschamp's defense. He was a first round pick for the Seattle Seahawks and is now viewed as one of the best safeties in the NFL.

What Riggs learned wasn't so much about what happened after the snap but more about things he could do to put himself in better position before the play even starts.

"He's very fast to the ball and knows what's going on before the play," Riggs said. "He's a very smart football player. He makes a lot of plays before the ball gets snapped. I'm trying to add that to my game and recognize what the offense is doing it before they actually do it."

After playing strictly cornerback at St. Thomas Aquinas, Riggs is learning a new position while also being viewed as a leader at the safety position. With plenty of young players like Marcell Harris, Marcus Maye and Keanu Neal looking for help as they start fall camp, it's Riggs that can provide it because of his hard work learning the position in the offseason.

But don't think he stopped considering cornerback.

That's where Riggs' heart is and hopes that one day he'll be able to move back to his natural position, although every indication he has received from Muschamp is that the move will be permanent.

"I would love to go back to corner," Riggs said with a smile, adding that he wants to do what's best for the team. "That's what I came to college to play. I'm pretty sure it's a permanent move. We just have so many great cornerbacks on this team."

That mature mindset is what makes Riggs respected by the younger players on the roster. He has to play bigger than his size to make up for the losses of Elam and his former ‘big brother' Josh Evans, but the Florida coaching staff has confidence Riggs can do it, especially after the Gators played in nickel or dime sets for over 80 percent of the snaps last year.

He's working with Harris and Neal to help the freshmen learn the defense early in camp.

"They look good. Keanu and Marcell look very good," Riggs said. "They're still young, so they're learning the defense, but they're going to be really good players in the future."

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